James Whakaruru
June 13, 1994 - April 4, 1999
James Whakaruru's, who has a birth name of Riri-o-te-Rangi, life almost ended before it had even begun. Just ten days before his birth in New Zealand, his mother, Te Rangi, slit her wrists in an attempted suicide. Only 15 years old, the father of her baby had left her and she had no where to live. Born June 13, 1994, James was delivered with the assistance of a General Practitioner and a Mid Wife. Each of these individuals would fail him as well.

At the age of three, James was taken to a hospital with an injury to his penis which required an emergency circumcision to be done. The urologist who was tending to him, would be the first in a long line of people to fail this child. Even though there were two different explanations given for how this injury was caused, the first being that a dog bit him, the second being that a child had hit him with stick, the urologist did nothing to protect James from the obvious abuse he was suffering.

The Whakaruru family was very well known to social workers having had at least six visits from them over the years concerning care and protection of children. The Haerewa family had been visited eight times and the family of the biological father of James had been visited 13 times.

James was left totally unprotected, by his mother as her boyfriend beat him, stomped on him and stabbed him over the years. Eventually, this man would cause the death of this little boy. This was a case where a child was failed by people who could have saved his life had they not thought that someone else would help him. The people who knew what was happening to James did nothing that would have saved his life. The doctors, to social workers and even the police and neighbors, none of them did what should have been done.

When James was one year old, his mother started a relationship with a man named Ben Haerewa. In December of 1995, James mother was attacked by Ben and though the police were called no formal complaint was made. By the age of 18 months old, James had been to the doctor for facial injuries and at the age of about 2 years old, he was again taken in for additional injuries.

In July of 1996 Ben hit James so hard that he was knocked out. Records show that there was massive bruising all over the his body.  Ben was charged with injuring with intent and went to jail. On July 23 of that year he was bailed out and was ordered to keep away from James. At that time, the social workers were informed that the case of James should be considered urgent. Also at that time, Te Rangi's grandparents were advised to get an interim custody order so that they could keep him safe. James was going back and forth between his mothers house and that of her parents. Eventually, it was agreed that he would go to live with his grandmother.

On August 13, the police found Ben at the home of Te Rangi, which was against the rules of his bail. They didn't inform the social workers. On October 17, 1996, Ben plead guilty and was sentenced to nine months in jail. This seems like such a short amount of time for all that he put James through.

James was again being sent back and forth between the homes of his mother and his grandmother. In December of 1996 a social worker recommended that nothing further be done in the case of James since he was living with his grandmother who she said would not allow any harm to come to him.

In 1997 Child, Youth and Family Services went to court and stated that they did not feel it was in the best interest of James to be returned to his mother since she was determined to continue her relationship with Ben when he was released from jail.

On February 11, 1997, James was once again taken to the hospital with a cut to his chin with his mother claiming he fell from the back step. Doctors failed to alert the police and the social workers. At that time it was noted that Te Rangi was living with the parents of her boyfriend. Apparently, James had been living with her even though the social workers believed he was living with his grandmother. Why didn't anyone check on him?

March 3, 1997 brought about a release from jail for Ben, five months early. At that time there was a temporary protection order put into affect for James. The social workers claim they were never notified of this. The Family Court was asked to monitor James on a weekly basis, they never did. They claimed they had no concerns for James because his mother was no longer in the harmful relationship with Ben.

An administration error stating the conditions set on Ben by the court that included six months of supervision, went unimposed. Ben was supposed to attend classes meant to stop his domestic violence and help with his parenting skills. Ben never reported to his probation service. Ben did begin an anger management class, he did not finish the class when he was supposed to.

In April of 1997 James was returned to his mother and they both lived with Ben's parents in Hastings. The agencies which had been involved in protecting James up to that point, were no longer in his life. In May Ben finished his anger management courses and the temporary protection order became permanent. Again, the probation services knew nothing about it. From June 1997 until May of 1998, there is nothing reported involving James other than saying that he was living in Porangahau with his mother and Ben.

Then on May 9, 1998 James was taken to the hospital with a tear in his penis. At that time, no one made a report to the police or the social workers. The doctor accepted the story that was given to him and left it at that. Nothing further would be heard about James until two weeks before he was beaten to death by Ben.

On March 20, 1999 James was taken to the hospital, after hours, with a deep cut on his lip. The lip was stitched up and he sent home. No one called police or any of the social workers. On April 4, he was back again at Hawkes Bay Hospital. At that time he was not breathing and his heart failed. The hospital staff had repeatedly failed to follow their own policy on child abuse. James was seen 40 times by medical professionals at different medical facilities. NONE of them did what they should have done to help him. James Whakaruru, who was about to turn five and start school, was pronounced dead at 8:18 p.m..

Upon examination of the body he was found to have an extended abdomen, extensive bruising along his entire body, cuts on his ear and lips as well as tearing marks on his throat. Also found were bruises to his scrotum and a swelling in his right arm. It was concluded that he died from one extremely prolonged beating or several prolonged beatings.

The commissioner's report says:

 "It is difficult to appreciate how, in a country with internationally acclaimed legislation 
focused on reducing child abuse and domestic violence, any child can die in the circumstances 
that James did." 

The following poem was sent to the Commissioner for Children, Roger McClay, by James' paternal grandmother, Rebecca Campus. The commissioner told her that he felt James was a hero because what happened to him and the telling of his story would prevent other children from dying. 

My opinion about his comments? If only that were REALLY true.

Our Little Heroes

Keep our little heroes safe 
Let our little heroes play, laugh and smile 
Love our little heroes and let them feel no pain
Show them that we love them all 
Show them that we really care 
Cherish them all, our little heroes 
Let them love and live the life they deserve 
Watch them grow, help them grow 
From little heroes that they are 
Watch them smile a beautiful smile 
Watch them jump, run and play 
Watch them grow from our loving little heroes 
To healthy young men and women 
These heroes are our future. 


 The boy who everyone failed 

Social Services Minister Steve Maharey said the Government had already taken steps to improve the system:

"I am determined that we will learn the lessons from 
James' tragic death." 

Anne Shaghnessy who works for for Health Care in Hawkes Bay stated that the organization played a key part in the death of James and they did accept responsibility for their part. That doesn't do James any good. In my opinion.

Of course NOW the agencies all want to get together to improve their services. Why does it take the death of a child in order for people to do the right things, to do what they are paid to do? It disgusts me to know that so many of these deaths of innocent children could be prevented if people only did their jobs. It also leaves me speechless to know that so many women out there allow their children to go through hell, just to keep a man in their lives.

Rebecca Campus, the paternal grandmother of James said she wished more would have been done. Sorry, but, this woman allowed that boy to go live with his mother when social services believed he was with her. She has to accept some of the responsibility for what happened to him, just like the rest of them.

Ben Haerewa was sentenced to ONLY a disgustingly short amount of time in prison for what he did to Hames. He was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter. He is said to be being released in January of 2011. How can ANYONE let this man out of prison after what he's done?

UPDATES:

November 2, 2010

Child killer to leave jail

A man convicted of beating to death four-year-old James Whakaruru 11 years ago will leave jail next month after serving out nearly his full 12-year manslaughter sentence.

Benny Haerewa was jailed for killing Whakaruru, who died in Hawke's Bay hospital from extensive internal injuries in April 1999 after prolonged beatings.

Haerewa, now 32, is due for release on December 20.

The Parole Board said that while it has fears Haerewa is likely to reoffend, he must be released because he will have served almost his full 12-year manslaughter sentence, Radio New Zealand reported.

Eleven conditions have been attached to his release, including drug, alcohol and psychological assessments and a requirement that Haerewa keep away from gangs and children aged 16 and under.

The board acknowledged the unease the decision had caused James Whakaruru's family.

Its report on Haerewa sounded an alarm.

"We are very concerned about Mr Haerewa's future in the community," it said.

"His psychological assessment is worrying; he is a high-risk offender.

"He is a serious violent offender and in terms of risk to the community there are grave fears.

"Undoubtedly Probation will monitor him over the next six months from his release date very carefully."

The Sensible Sentencing Trust is calling on the Government to change the law to retrospectively impose preventive detention on Haerewa so that he could be kept in jail.

Spokesman Garth McVicar said few people would be alarmed at doing this.

"The safety of the citizens come before his rights... ultimately this guy is a ticking time bomb," he said. 

Boy's killer out of prison today - December 2010

A man who repeatedly beat a four-year-old boy until he died will be released from jail today, despite fears he'll reoffend.

Thirty-two-year-old Ben Haerewa was sentenced to 12 years in 1999 after being found guilty of the manslaughter of James Whakaruru.

The Parole Board ruled he must - by law - be set free today, having served nearly his full sentence.

Garth McVicar from the Sensible Sentencing Trust says people like Haerewa kept behind bars.

The board has attached 11 conditions to Haerewa's release, including that he undertake drug, alcohol and psychological assessments and keep away from gangs.

James Whakaruru’s killer breaches parole - January 26, 2011

A man who beat a four-year-old child so badly he died has broken his parole conditions a month after he was let out of prison, The Dominion Post reported today.

Ben Haerewa, 32, was convicted of the 1999 manslaughter of his partner's son James Whakaruru, and served 12 years in prison before he was released on parole last December.

Haerewa had been jailed for beating the child two years earlier but the beatings continued and after a two-day attack, James died.

He was released from jail despite the Parole Board's concerns about the likelihood of him reoffending.

Before he was released the board expressed grave fears about his risk to the community, describing him as "violent" and "high-risk".

He was released under 11 conditions, including undertaking drug, alcohol, and psychological assessments, keeping away from gangs, and having no contact with anyone under 16.

The general manager of community probation services, Katrina Casey, said Haerewa had breached one of the conditions and reported the breach himself which resulted in a warning by the probation service.

She said he could not be recalled to prison but could be charged with breaching his bail conditions and could be jailed for to up to 12 months.

She would not give details about his breach of bail but said his release would be closely monitored.

Death occurred in New Zealand

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