A criminal law expert says those who have knowledge, or prior knowledge of the risk to a 4-year-old boy severally beaten in Flaxmere, could be charged by police - even if they stay silent.
Police say the boy, who is in a stable condition at Starship children's hospital, suffered a sustained beating - possibly over days - at a Ramsey Cres address in late January and will most likely suffer from brain damage.
His family was known to Oranga Tamariki.
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University of Canterbury criminology lecturer Professor Greg Newbold said a revised law under The Crimes Amendment Act - brought in after the trial over the death of the Kahui twins - meant anyone who has frequent contact and knows that the victim is at risk of death, grievous bodily harm, or sexual assault or fails to take reasonable steps to protect the victim from risk, could face prosecution.
Those people can be a member of the same household as the victim or a staff member of any hospital, institution or residence where the victim resides.
The maximum sentence for a charge of failing to protect a child or vulnerable adult from risk of death, or grievous bodily harm, is 10 years' jail.
"It is something that prosecutors could definitely take into account," Newbold said.
The law came as a result of the public outcry after the murder of the Kahui twins in 2006 for which no one has been held responsible after a jury acquitted the twins' father.
Newbold said that behind all the controversy of Oranga Tamariki uplifting children, this is a case showing that sometimes it has to be done to save lives.
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"This is a clear example of a situation when a child wasn't taken away by the state and this has happened."
Police Association President Chris Cahill said the right to silence law can make things difficult in complex case like this one, and it might be time to review it in certain circumstances.
Cahill said under the current law in the Bill Of Rights Act an individual has the right to not give a statement.
"It's an issue we come across all the time in cases such as this, and we think it is time to look at those rights to silence."
He said that it may be time to follow the likes of England or Ireland where if someone refrains from giving testimony it can be used in evidence in court.
Newbold said the right to silence was a difficult law to amend but if possible would be great to do.
On the other hand, forcing people to testify "could open Pandora's box" for society, he said.
Cahill has asked the public to have patience and says that it will take time to outline the events leading to what occurred.
"I can understand that people are upset over what has happened but we have to urge patience and not jump to conclusions around what actually happened," he said.
"But we are very much open if they have viable information to hand that over to police to help with the investigation."