Child neglect laws: cut the umming and ahhing, Pru Goward, and act decisively

Pru Goward stopped short of confirming she would introduce legislation to parliament.

Pru Goward stopped short of confirming she would introduce legislation to parliament.

Editorial

Tougher sentences for child neglect in NSW appear to be on their way. 

We think.

A couple of weeks ago, the Illawarra Mercury launched our State of Neglect campaign calling for tougher penalties in relation to severe cases of child neglect.

NSW is the only state which does not have a jail sentence deterrent available to magistrates or judges in the worst cases of child neglect.

The State of Neglect campaign emerged over a case of an Illawarra ‘house of horrors’, which could only result in a fine for the parent involved.

The presiding magistrate, Mark Douglass, described the case as one of the worst he’d ever seen and condemned the limited sentencing options, saying cases of animal neglect carried tougher sentences.

“Had the level of abuse these children endured been suffered by animals, this court would have more options available,” he said at the time of sentencing.

It seems nothing short of ridiculous you could go to jail for such treatment of animals, but this type of treatment of children can only result in a fine at worst.

Member for Keira Ryan Park has been a passionate supporter for change   and vowed to take the conversation to Minister Pru Goward.

This week Mr Park reported his conversation with the Minister had gone positively and Ms Goward was committed to imposing tougher penalties.

Publicly, when asked on the public record by the Illawarra Mercury, the Minister was not as clear in her commitment, stating only she was in favour of tougher penalties broadly.

“My preference is to toughen up the sentencing available in the current legislation, and I am now looking into that,” she said.

“I have instructed the Department of Family and Community Services to undertake extensive review and consultation around the adequacy of the existing sentencing options.”

Ms Goward, the political speak is all well and good and we understand the need for “process”.

Yet, the community and this masthead is demanding strong and direct action with our State of Neglect campaign.

We need to act quickly and decisive to give our judges and magistrates the power they need to protect our children.

NSW can not continue to be the State of Neglect.