P ex­pert de­lighted at new PM

Waiheke Marketplace - - Front Page - ROSE DAVIS

Wai­heke lawyer and meth re­searcher Chloe Barker is thrilled to see Jacinda Ardern, who acted on her find­ings, be­come Prime Min­is­ter.

For her Master’s the­sis, Barker car­ried out heart-break­ing re­search on the im­pacts on chil­dren of grow­ing up in metham­phetamine lab­o­ra­to­ries in New Zealand. She found that through con­tact with con­tam­i­nated en­vi­ron­ments, chil­dren some­times had lev­els of meth in their hair, blood and urine that were higher that that of ad­dicts.

Al­though the im­pacts on chil­dren are dev­as­tat­ing, the laws are ‘‘tooth­less’’ and often fail to pro­tect them, Barker said.

Af­ter her re­search find­ings were pub­lished in a po­lice mag­a­zine in 2012, Ardern con­tacted her and sug­gested meet­ing. A Labour list MP at the time, Ardern ar­ranged for broader pub­li­ca­tion of Barker’s re­search, help­ing to raise aware­ness of the is­sue.

Ardern cited Barker’s re­search in par­lia­ment to sup­port law changes to make it a crime to man­u­fac­ture meth when a child is present.

How­ever, the Sen­tenc­ing (Pro­tec­tion of Chil­dren from Crim­i­nal Of­fend­ing) Amend­ment Bill never made it into law.

Po­lice can pros­e­cute meth man­u­fac­tur­ers un­der gen­eral child abuse laws, but the rates of con­vic­tion are low, be­cause it is hard to prove chil­dren have been in­ten­tion­ally harmed by P man­u­fac­ture, Barker said.

Ardern cam­paigned for a pro- to­col to be in­tro­duced as­sign­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to the po­lice and Child, Youth and Fam­ily when chil­dren are found in P labs. New pro­to­cols have since been de­vel­oped.

‘‘I was im­pressed that she had a mil­lion things on her plate, but she cared enough to be proac­tive and make prac­ti­cal changes that have as­sisted the po­lice. I’m ab­so­lutely stoked about Jacinda be­com­ing the Prime Min­is­ter. I think she’s go­ing to give a voice to a lot of peo­ple who don’t have a voice cur­rently,’’ Barker said.

Ex­am­in­ing po­lice files, Barker found that from 2006 to 2010, 191 chil­dren were living at meth lab­o­ra­to­ries that po­lice shut down. Chil­dren grow­ing up in P lab­o­ra­to­ries are ex­posed to toxic chem­i­cals and face higher risks of ex­plo­sions, fires, and weapons in the house. Chil­dren in meth lab­o­ra­to­ries also face higher risks of phys­i­cal, sex­ual and emo­tional abuse, she said.

Barker (39) re­turned to her full time job as a com­mer­cial lawyer af­ter com­plet­ing her Master of Foren­sic Sci­ence de­gree.

Al­though Ardern won’t pro­vide a ‘‘magic an­swer’’ for all life’s ills, Barker hopes chil­dren might yet get the le­gal pro­tec­tion from meth ex­po­sure they de­serve. ‘‘There is ob­vi­ously a prob­lem with P on Wai­heke and I’m sure there are lots of com­mu­ni­ties around New Zealand that are ex­actly the same.’’

‘‘I'm ab­so­lutely stoked’’ Chloe Barker

Wai­heke lawyer and meth re­searcher Chloe Barker was im­pressed by Jacinda Ardern act­ing on her find­ings. PIERS THOREAU

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