21 Jan 2011

Accused child abuser 'sought help many times'

6:48 pm on 21 January 2011

The lawyer for a woman accused of "horrific" child abuse of her nine-year-old daughter says her client sought help many times - and even wrote to the Prime Minister.

The Government on Thursday announced an independent inquiry will be held into how the abuse went undetected for so long, despite the involvement of 12 welfare agencies.

The girl's parents face 36 charges of assault, cruelty and neglect. Their names are suppressed.

The girl was found in a cupboard in a house in West Auckland with horrific injuries. The parents are accused of ripping off a toenail, pouring salt on the wound, immersing her in a hot bath, beating her and writing abusive comments on her body.

Lawyer Lorraine Smith told Summer Report her client wrote to Prime Minister John Key as she struggled to deal with behaviour that Mrs Smith says would challenge professionals used to dealing with very disturbed children.

Ms Smith says she welcomes the inquiry and expects it will show a lack of information sharing by welfare agencies.

Many agencies were involved, but the left hand did not know what the right hand was doing, she says.

The result of the inquiry is due at the end of March.

Teacher also wrote to PM

The primary teachers' union says a letter sent to the Prime Minister by a teacher about the girl's abuse shows welfare agencies failed to act.

The New Zealand Educational Institute says it is mandatory for teachers to report child abuse to Child, Youth and Family or to police.

Union president Ian Leckie says the teacher would have written to the Mr Key out of frustration that their reports to Child, Youth and Family were not acted upon.

CYF handling of case 'flawed'

Children's Commissioner John Angus says there are flaws in the way Child, Youth and Family handled the case.

Mr Angus has read Child, Youth and Family's report and says it seems their focus was on assisting the parents, not the girl.

He told Summer Report that it was the woman's extended family, not government agencies, who alerted police.