P expert delighted at new PM
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