More than a year after a boy was severely injured and hospitalised following an Oranga Tamariki intervention, police charge two people with harming him
Two people have been charged in relation to an incident involving a four-year-old boy who suffered horrific head injuries at his home in Flaxmere last year.
On Wednesday, more than 16 months after the incident, police charged a 32-year-old woman with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, neglect and nine counts of assaulting a child
A 27-year-old man is also charged with neglect, and with injuring with intent.
Newsroom reported on this story in February 2020 after the boy’s extended whānau revealed they had told Oranga Tamariki not to return the boy to his then-home.
The boy had been placed with his grandmother in Auckland after previously sustaining an injury in 2019, but was returned to his Flaxmere home without further consultation with the wider whānau.
“The wider whānau in this case were on track, but OT ran them off the track. It’s against their own documentation to go against the wishes of the wider whānau.”
– Hastings Kaumatua Des Ratima
The boy’s grandfather told Newsroom the decision to return the boy was distressing in light of what police had revealed to him.
“I found out that the investigation [into the 2019 incident] hadn’t been closed and that the police recommended that while the investigation is still open they (Oranga Tamariki) shouldn’t have returned (the boy) under any means.
“One police detective told me on a phone call that they don’t know who [had said] the investigation had been closed, or OT that … and to hear that news just cut real deep. That the communication breakdown between two very professional … seemed to be professional departments… can’t talk with one another.”
The boy had been nursed back to health by his grandmother in Auckland after he had surgery in Wellington Hospital in June 2019. Medical staff told whānau his head injuries were so severe, “it was like he had been in a head-on car crash”.
Newsroom understands it was claimed then that the child had sustained the injuries when he had fallen from a bouncy castle at a large whānau gathering.
It is understood the police did not have sufficient evidence to lay charges.
Newsroom also spoke to the boy’s aunt, who believed there had been serious communication failures between Oranga Tamariki, police and the wider family.
“We didn’t hear from the police at all between the first and second incident. We as whānau have had to go to the police ourselves every time. There’s no liaison person. There were two detectives originally in Wellington, then two different ones. This time round there’s a new detective, who says they never closed the original investigation, even though OT told us they had,” says the aunt.
The wider family says that after the first incident, Oranga Tamariki agreed to let the boy live with his grandmother in Auckland, where he could receive ongoing treatment for his injuries.
“We as a family came up with a plan, and Oranga Tamariki agreed with it.”
Then, unbeknown to any of the family who had been heavily involved with nurturing and supporting the boy, he was taken back to Hastings. Whānau members told Newsroom they had no idea the boy was going back to the home in Flaxmere, and they would have stopped it happening.
Six weeks later, on January 29, police were called to the boy’s Flaxmere home, where he was treated by ambulance staff and flown to Starship.
Hastings Kaumatua Des Ratima told Newsroom in February 2020 that Oranga Tamariki needed to step up and accept some of the responsibility.
“OT have remained silent on their role is this horrific situation. I’m not excusing anyone for damaging our tamariki. I am saying that this situation occurred because of poor decision-making by people and institutions which should, and must, know and do things different.
“The wider whānau in this case were on track, but OT ran them off the track. OT also needs to be accountable for the decisions it made and own their part in this tragedy. It’s against their own documentation to go against the wishes of the wider whānau.”