Heather Roy

13 March 2018

16 is a hard age – not old enough to vote or consume alcohol in public places or be sent off to war. But old enough to have their say on medical matters, get married or enter into a civil union with parental consent. For politicians writing law the difference for determining legal ages is fraught. 14, 16 and 18 are all cut-off points for a variety of areas that we all hope our children (and their parents) will never have to contend with. Levels of maturity are obviously part of the answer but the law doesn’t deal with fuzziness or niceties – it is absolute and requires definitives to be administered. The Privacy Commission, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and Consumer all provide information on when a child’s privacy and rights over-ride the need to inform parents.

From a parental perspective the mid teenage years are troublesome because our offspring at this age want to be treated as adults but at times still act like children. That’s why parental guidance is important and it takes the wisdom of Solomon to manoeuvre our way effectively through this quagmire.

There has been much discussion today about what should have happened when a drunken 20 year old allegedly sexually assaulted three 16 year olds at a Labour Party summer Youth Camp. The handling of the affair by Labour party officials was clumsy at best, bungling and harmful at worst. Everyone agrees that the inappropriate events should have been dealt with swiftly. Anyone who thought a cover-up would never be found out probably still believes in the tooth fairy.

Parents, who had presumably consented to their 16 year olds going off to Labour summer camp, had the right to believe their children were going to a safe environment. Yes things sometimes happen, but when they do the expectation is that they are dealt with adequately. The decision to not tell parents what had happened (so they could assist their children if traumatized) is either amazingly naïve or, more likely, it was intended to prevent the media storm and disdain now being launched at Labour for a significant lack of judgement.

The matter should have been dealt with by the system – the police – not ineptly handled by the Labour Party, acting as police, judge and jury, to avoid public and political embarrassment. There is a presumed perpetrator who should be held to account or vindicated if not guilty.

So the Prime Minister didn’t know, wasn’t told and was surprised when door stopped by media. That’s a failing by her party. More importantly, they have let down young people who don’t deserve to be let down.