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GP backs crackdown on 'ghouls hurting children'

Published: 7:52AM Wednesday August 14, 2013 Source: ONE News

High profile Northland GP Lance O'Sullivan is backing a wide-ranging Government proposal to keep abusers away from children, saying "ghouls" in communities are hurting them.

Under proposed new legislation, convicted child abusers who go on to have more children will have to prove they are fit to be a parent again.

And people suspected of being at high risk of abusing children will be banned from contact with them, even if they have no convictions.

"Some people are calling that extreme, some people say that might result in a witch hunt," Dr O'Sullivan told ONE News.

"But the reality is there are witches in our community, there are ghouls in our communities and society that are hurting children. And we need to do something about it," he said.

The Kaitaia GP has spoken out numerous times in recent years to highlight the link between poverty and child health. He was named Maori of the Year 2012.

The government says it has been forced to take action on child abuse.

It says one child under two is hospitalised every five days because of abuse and  extreme abuse is behind the deaths of 50 children in the last five years.

One new proposal involves thorough checks of public sector employees.

"Getting a check or double or triple check done on you to make sure you're going to be safe with our children is a good idea," Dr O'Sullivan said.

Child protection advocate Anton Blank also backs the need for closer vetting of public servants.

"We need to be much more vigilant in vetting these people and ensuring that children are safe," he said.

But there is concern about the proposal banning suspected child abusers from associating with children for up to 10 years, even without a criminal conviction.

Professor Mark Henaghan of Otago University's Faculty of Law said in a child protection situation you can take measures to protect children.

"But to deprive children of contact I think you have to be fairly clear that someone has done some wrong. And without a conviction what have you got to go on? And I think that's the real issue here," he said.

Dr O'Sullivan, though, is unapologetic.

"We need to do something to stop those images coming across our 6 o'clock news and national papers. We have to do something extreme because if we don't, we'll just see the same old same old happening."

Strong opinions such as those are bound to be heard once the bill gets to a select committee. 

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