NSW opposition leader Luke Foley says that parents who kill their children should lose all parental rights, including their right to parent children in the future.
He recently announced in the Sunday Telegraph that Labor will propose a new law to ensure that parents with certain serious convictions will automatically have their children removed from them, including any children they have in the future.
Like many others, Foley expressed concerns about the case of child-killer Benjamin Leach, who served less than four years in prison for the manslaughter of his seven-week-old baby girl, Ikicia
Ikicia’s mother was disgusted that Mr Leach had fathered another child after being released from prison and starting a relationship with another woman.
Foley believes that people like Leach should be denied a second chance, stating that “parents who have taken a young life – either through murder or neglect – simply cannot be given the chance to commit violence upon another innocent child.”
Foley’s views may be controversial, but he is certainly not alone.
Proposed new law in South Australia
South Australia has already introduced a Bill designed to remove parental rights from those convicted of a range of serious crimes.
The Bill is based upon a coroner’s investigation into the tragic death of four-year-old Chloe, who was killed by her mother Ashlee Polkinghorne (pictured above) and maternal grandfather Benjamin McPartlan, when the pair forced her to crash a motorcycle in their backyard. Both went to prison for manslaughter.
The coroner recommended that the Children’s Protection Act be changed to allow authorities to remove children from parents who are convicted of serious crimes.
The Bill, known as the Children’s Protection (Implementation of Coroner’s Recommendations) Amendment Bill 2015, is now going through the South Australian Parliament.
It enables a child to be taken away from a parent or guardian who commits any of the following offences:
- Criminal neglect;
- Causing serious harm;
- Endangering life or creating risk of serious harm; or
- An attempt to commit one of the above offence.
The Bill has already been passed by the House of Assembly and is now before the Legislative Council.
If enacted, it will be the first Act of its kind in Australia.
Laws of this type are criticised on the basis that they unfairly remove a fundamental human right, the right to be a parent, without giving due consideration to the circumstances of individual cases, such as:
- the specific nature of the facts and circumstances of the offending conduct,
- the length of time since the offending conduct,
- the offender’s efforts towards rehabilitation, and perhaps most importantly
- the current situation, including any evidence (or lack of evidence) of neglect or danger to the child.
There are concerns that removing children from loving parents and making them wards of the state may do more harm than good, especially if there is no current evidence of neglect or abuse.
Perhaps a better approach might be to engage professionals such as psychologists and social workers to prepare reports that make recommendations after assessing the situation as a whole, rather than giving state bureaucrats the power to remove children based upon a past conviction alone.