29 Jun 2011

Commissioner backs removal of right to silence

5:12 pm on 29 June 2011

The incoming Children's Commissioner is supporting calls by a leading paediatrican to remove the right to silence for some suspects in child abuse cases.

The director of Starship Hospital's child protection unit, Dr Patrick Kelly, has told an inquest into the deaths of the Kahui twins that caregivers of abuse victims should not have the right to silence in a criminal investigation.

Parliament is considering a law to punish people who fail to report child abuse.

Russell Wills becomes the Children's Commissioner in July and believes the law should go further.

The paediatrician told Nine to Noon it is wrong that family members can close ranks and hold no-one accountable for child abuse that has occurred in the home.

Dr Wills says he has seen two or three cases this year where families have closed ranks where there is suspected abuse.

"When children have been seriously assaulted or killed, I think it's not okay that a family can gather together, can circle the wagons and be silent. I think that fails to keep children safe - and children deserve better than that."

But Law Commission deputy president of Warren Young says removing the right to silence is unlikely to have any real value.

Mr Young says it would not prevent people from giving contradictory information to police and could encourage them to lie.