Nia Glassie case: 'We've got to learn to nark'

By Yvonne Tahana, Beck Vass

A Maori community leader and child advocate wants New Zealanders to stop turning a blind eye to child abuse and dob in their neighbours.

His call comes after yesterday's guilty verdicts in the trial of those accused of killing Rotorua three-year-old Nia Glassie.

Hone Kaa, head of the child advocacy group Te Kahui Mana Ririki, said New Zealand's child abuse rate was unacceptably high, and more children like Nia would die if people continued to turn a blind eye.

"We can be sure she isn't going to be the last. We might pray that she is, but in the end it's the behaviour of adults that secures the safety of children."

Dr Kaa said New Zealanders ought to be "busybodies" and report abuse.

"We've got to learn to nark. I've said this before and I'm not afraid of saying it time and time again. Drop them in it."

Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, was yesterday found guilty of two counts of manslaughter - one for failing to obtain medical treatment for the toddler before her death in August last year, and one for failing to protect her.

Kuka's then-boyfriend, Wiremu Curtis, and his brother, Michael Curtis, were found guilty of murdering the toddler, after abusing her for months.

Former Children's Commissioner Ian Hassall yesterday called for a public inquiry into the country's attitude and behaviour towards children.

Dr Hassall, a paediatrician who now works at Auckland University of Technology, believes the new Government should establish an inquiry that would examine New Zealanders' "harshness" and "anything goes" attitude to children.

"It's popular when there's a change of Government to have inquiries into this and that. I think perhaps an inquiry into how children are looked after in this country, and what our attitudes towards them are, would be a good idea.

"At least it would direct attention to the issue, and perhaps there could be more serious soul-searching among us."

The jury of seven men and four women spent 11 hours deliberating before announcing the verdicts to a packed courtroom.

A distraught Michael Curtis tried to walk away as the verdicts were delivered, and he and his brother had to be restrained by Corrections officers, who pulled them to the back of the courtroom.

Kuka stood expressionless as her guilty verdicts were given.

She acknowledged someone in the court with an upwards nod as she was taken from the room.

Two others charged - Nia's cousin, Michael Pearson, and Michael Curtis' partner, Oriwa Kemp - were found not guilty of manslaughter, but guilty, with the Curtis brothers, on abuse charges.

Nia's father, Glassie Glassie jnr, 35, said he did not attend the trial because of his feelings towards his ex-partner, Kuka.

"I really don't want to be there," he said. "It's hard because she was my partner before. I've been in a relationship with her and she's the mother of my kids. I feel sorry for her.

"It's just mixed feelings towards her. It shouldn't have happened that way."

He had no sense of relief at yesterday's verdicts.

"I've got no feelings. I can't explain - at the end of the day my baby's gone and nothing will bring her back."

Mr Glassie said he had forgiven all five accused who would now have to pay for their own mistakes.

His priority was about making sure his three other children with Kuka, aged 13, 11 and 9, were safe and looked after at home in Tokoroa.

"The kids are going to do normal things - go to school and come home. I've just got to be with them. I've still got to talk to them about what's happening, quietly."

The killing has shocked Rotorua. A woman who was at the court said residents felt helpless about what to do.

People cared, she said, but did not know how to break into the lives of people such as those responsible for Nia's death.

A police officer involved in the case described parts of Rotorua and outlying areas as "festering sores" for child abuse and said overseas colleagues had expressed shock at the level of violence inflicted on a three-year-old.

Detective Sergeant Mark Loper of Rotorua CIB told the Herald earlier in the year that although the community became outraged, it allowed such things to happen.

He did not believe Nia's case would be Rotorua's last child abuse incident.

- Simon Collins

- NZ Herald

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