This is the real ver­dict ...

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

No ques­tion, the jury ac­quit­ted but the hid­den ver­dict is ac­tu­ally guilty – again.

The New Zealand com­mu­nity is still in the dock over the long-run­ning record of mur­der with our chil­dren as vic­tims and through our fail­ure to stop the ter­ri­ble trend.

The Kahui case is typ­i­cal both for what hap­pened and what seems cer­tain to fol­low – the hor­ror of first rev­e­la­tions, pub­lic de­mands for ac­tion, slow ebbing of na­tional in­ter­est as the big head­lines moved, now a new flurry of emo­tion and words.

Of course there are as­tound­ing dif­fer­ences – in the speed and the un­prece­dented to­tal re­jec­tion of the Crown case and in the im­pli­ca­tions of the defence the­ory.

But if his­tory re­peats it­self – and that is a familiar wor­ry­ing pat­tern – this case will fade from the pub­lic con­scious­ness as oth­ers have.

Maybe, it will take longer but, if you doubt that, re­mem­ber th­ese facts in this col­umn last Au­gust:

New Can­ter­bury Univer­sity then re­vealed 91 “child homi­cides” in this coun­try be­tween 1991 and 2000 – two-thirds of them un­der five, one in four un­der one.

In the 2007 June year – Star­ship’s worst on record - doc­tors and nurses there dealt with 38 sus­pect ad­mis­sions, 25 with those “non-ac­ci­den­tal” in­juries, one dead.

The to­tal in the pre­vi­ous six years, 181 chil­dren with sus­pected or def­i­nite child abuse. Thir­teen of them died. I wrote then: “The gov­ern­ment, its de­part­ments with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to pro­tect our chil­dren, the com­mu­nity, fam­i­lies and whanau, neigh­bours, friends, have all been reg­u­larly and pub­licly con­science-stricken over the years.

“And they then put the ter­ri­ble de­tails of the deaths be­hind them – un­til the next in­ci­dent when they un­con­sciously re­peat the process.”

Once again, this is one of those times.

The coun­try – un­der­stand­ably stunned again by the fate of the tiny Kahui brothers – is in a guilt and out­rage phase.

But how long will it last and what will be the out­come?

If you doubt that, re­mem­ber if you can Del­celia Wi­tika, two, bashed, burnt and hit so hard her ap­pen­dix burst, than left alone to die while her mother and her part­ner went so­cial­is­ing.

Craig Manukau, 11, his mother turned the ra­dio vol­ume up try­ing to drown the noise of his fa­ther kick­ing him to death.

Tichena Crosland, three, bat­tered to death by her fa­ther.

James Whakaruru, four, punched and stomped to death by his mother’s boyfriend.

Lilly­bing, 23 months, who died alone in her cot from head and in­ter­nal in­juries while her mother was out par­ty­ing.

Olympia, 11, and Saliel Aplin, 12, knifed to death by their step­fa­ther.

Nia Glassie, three, with claims of her in a spin­ning tum­ble drier and on a re­volv­ing clothes line.

That’s only part of a list which seems end­less, with one thing each of my files has in com­mon: Af­ter pub­lic anger – and the familiar “we mustn’t let this hap­pen again” – the killings just went on and on. And still do. For the record: The po­lice an­nounce­ment within hours of the court de­feat that there will be no fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the Kahui deaths, that the file is now closed, is a sharp con­trast to re­ac­tions which went on for years af­ter the par­don­ing of Arthur Thomas for the Crewe mur­ders.

Po­lice made it clear then that the Crewe file was still open – and pos­si­bly still is.

As the Kahui file should be.

Now, it’s time that a na­tion so pub­licly shaken by the loss of a cer­tain rugby tro­phy and a for­ward pass it still moans about, got its pri­or­i­ties straight and pro­tected its chil­dren.

Un­til that hap­pens a guilty ver­dict hangs over all of us.

As I have writ­ten be­fore: “Their names are like tomb­stones, an ac­cus­ing litany of the in­no­cent dead.” Oh, yes, the Bud­get. Amid a tsunami of fig­ures and prom­ises, two ques­tions: • How come that a gov­ern­ment which in a time of “fis­cal plenty” as Michael Cullen might la­bel it – has been un­able for years to spend such money, can now find it so read­ily when the elec­toral clock is tick­ing and its poll rat­ings are col­laps­ing? • How come, with­out any real inside knowl­edge on the state of the econ­omy now and in the months ahead, can Na­tional make such spe­cific tax cut prom­ises in re­sponse to those bribes?

The na­tional ex­ec­u­tive of the RSA has – so to speak – put the cap on the vexed “hats on/hats off” ques­tion.

The is­sue is whether chemo­ther­apy pa­tients, or those dis­fig­ured, or those who have lost their hair be­cause of med­i­cal con­di­tions should be forced to take their hats off inside RSA clubs.

The RSA wants all rea­son­able re­quests to wear a hat inside clubs to be con­sid­ered with “cour­tesy and re­spect” with prac­ti­cal­ity and com­pas­sion in mind.

This ac­tion is a vic­tory for the wife of an ex-ser­vice­man who first raised the “no hat” rule in this col­umn.

She told how her vet­eran hus­band, a can­cer vic­tim, was re­fus­ing chemo­ther­apy if the lo­cal RSA club’s hats off rule af­ter­wards stopped him cov­er­ing his hair­less head, caus­ing him to drop out of the club and los­ing con­tact with his friends and the good fel­low­ship he en­joyed there.

The Royal New Zealand Re­turned and Ser­vices na­tional ex­ec­u­tive took her let­ter to heart.

It’s now send­ing out guide­lines to all of New Zealand’s mem­ber as­so­ci­a­tions.

Th­ese will make clear how they can and should waive the no hats rule and spec­i­fy­ing that th­ese de­tailed con­di­tions be writ­ten into club rules.

Call­ing for all those go­ing to the clubs to be “treated with re­spect and con­sid­er­a­tion”, par­tic­u­larly those men and women who have been dis­fig­ured in some man­ner, the let­ter says “it would be more of an af­front to our ba­sic goals of care for peo­ple to refuse a mem­ber en­try on ac­count of a hat than to al­low it”.

But the let­ter also spells out a drill cov­er­ing the is­sue: “It is a re­quire­ment that spe­cial per­mis­sion to wear head­gear be sought from ei­ther an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the man­ager of the lo­cal club” – and what sort of “head­gear” also be con­sid­ered.

And ev­ery ef­fort should be made to alert mem­bers to the fact that an ex­cep­tion has been asked for and granted – so wear­ing a hat will not be chal­lenged.

Not just men ei­ther. “Women may wear a hat – if it is part of a uni­form or for­mal dress.”

But oth­er­wise, the same rules and stan­dards ap­ply – and pre­sum­ably the same health and com­pas­sion con­di­tions.

To con­tact Pat Booth email: off­pat@snl.co.nz. All replies are open for pub­li­ca­tion un­less marked Not For Pub­li­ca­tion.

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