Child-torture case horrifies minister, sparks fury over bail

By Anna Leask

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Family advocates are angry that a couple charged with the abuse and torture of their 9-year-old daughter have been released on bail.

And they are asking why the abuse was not detected sooner.

The couple, who have interim name suppression, will appear in Waitakere District Court tomorrow facing more than 35 charges between them.

Social Development Minster Paula Bennett has demanded a report on the case from Child, Youth and Family.

The agency removed the girl from her parents not long after she was born, and she was returned to them only two years ago.

"When that report is received, I will make a decision about whether an independent inquiry is necessary," Ms Bennett said last night.

The minister has written an article on the case in today's Herald.

"As soon as this case was brought to my attention I started demanding answers," she says in it.

"On behalf of this 9-year-old girl I'll continue to do so. For now, the court case continues and I hope to God justice comes."

Gifts have been flooding in to the Henderson police station for the girl, who is now in a safe place.

One officer said the generosity of people leaving the Christmas presents had made her "teary".

The Herald has also been inundated with offers of support for the girl.

The 9-year-old was found by police last month hiding in a wardrobe at a West Auckland home.

Almost every part of her body had injuries. Part of her scalp had been torn off her head, allegedly as she was dragged down a hallway.

She was starving, dehydrated and anaemic because of internal bleeding. She had a broken bone in her foot and had bruising all over her body.

Her father, 32, is charged with assaulting her between January last year and last month.

He is also charged with using a broomstick and a vacuum pipe as weapons to assault her during an eight-day period in November.

The girl's 30-year-old mother faces 32 charges, including injuring with intent, assault with various weapons, wilful neglect by failing to seek medical help, withholding food, and causing grievous bodily harm.

She also faces two charges of assaulting another child, aged 7, with a table leg and an unknown weapon.

The couple were remanded on bail when they appeared in court last week.

Anton Blank, from the Maori child advocacy organisation Te Kahui Mana Ririki, described the abuse of the 9-year-old as "sadistic".

He said the seriousness of the charges needed to be recognised.

Mr Blank was upset when he heard about the case, and even more devastated when he discovered that the abused girl was Maori.

"She joins the ranks of Maori children who have been abused and killed," he said.

"Given the extent of the girl's injuries, I find it hard to believe that whanau members, neighbours, teachers and other adults coming into contact with her did not suspect that something was up. These adults should have done something to protect her."

Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie could not believe the parents were not kept in custody when facing such serious charges.

"This is a case so horrendous we are fortunate we are not dealing with another Nia Glassie. People are shocked and revolted by this case."

Anthea Simcock, chief executive of the Child Matters abuse-prevention group, described the case as disgusting.

"The question arises yet again: Who else could have done something to stop it?" she said.

Ms Simcock singled out the girl's school and "all other agencies, medical centres or services that were involved with this child".

"Why did they not recognise what was in front of them?"

- NZ Herald

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