The surge in the removal of the name of a woman jailed for abusing her daughter, leading to her death, is a timely reminder of the need for better supervision of children in New Zealand, says national advocacy group abused children Child Matters.
Southern Thompson was previously jailed for life with a minimum period without parole of 17 years for murder, child abuse, intentionally harming her and failing to seek medical attention.
Yesterday she formally notified the Court of Appeal that she was abandoning her appeal, which means that the deletion of her name has expired.
Her daughter, Comfort Jay Thompson-Pene, was killed in 2018 and an autopsy concluded she died of head injuries from blunt trauma. Comfort was the victim of prolonged abuse, court documents have revealed.
Former police detective, lawyer and now CEO of Child Matters, Jane Searle, said the details of the Comfort case are horrific and serve as a reminder of the appalling child abuse statistics in New Zealand and the United States. lack of consistent tracking of New Zealand tamariki.
“Unfortunately, this type of abuse happens every day across the country and we don’t hear about it until another child dies in tragic circumstances and this story hits the headlines,” she says.
“We need a system that better monitors our children from birth. In Comfort’s case, she didn’t stand a chance because no one looked after her interests and met her needs.
Searle says proposed changes to the Children’s Commissioner, through the Oranga Tamariki Supervision Bill, run completely counter to the need to improve New Zealand’s system to better care for of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children.
“On the contrary, positions like Children’s Commissioner need to be better funded and supported, not effectively cut and downgraded.
“Many politicians seem out of touch with the realities of what is happening in our country. They are advancing a bill that essentially dismantles the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, against huge opposition from community and frontline organizations.
“It sends a tragic message that the government is prepared to ignore the voices of frontline workers to achieve its own agenda.”
Searle believes that reversing New Zealand’s child abuse statistics requires three key elements: the vigilance of local communities; rapid response from government agencies; and effective and appropriate resourcing of specialized community services.
She says this should include the introduction of mandatory child protection training for professionals or volunteers working with children and young people.
On average, a child dies every five weeks at the hands of someone else in New Zealand.
Child Matters is an independent child abuse advocacy and training organization and New Zealand’s only national charity dedicated to the prevention of child abuse.