Ok. Let’s tackle a big issue. Perhaps the biggest issue. So, in our line of work, we are in homes that have had a meth lab in it or in homes that has or have had meth users in it. The sad part of our work is that those homes that we go into and find meth in, we also often find children.
Yep. Children. And Meth. Together.
I remembered reading an article from November (2016) where a couple were injecting their children with heroin. Uh huh. Injecting their own children with heroin.
Whilst that’s not something you see everyday. For us, in our line of work, we see children living in drug contaminated conditions and therefore exposed to drugs all the time.
Meth is pervasive. It contaminates everything it touches. Every surface. It penetrates porous surfaces and ‘sticks’ to non-porous. It will remain in clothing, on carpets, on tables, chairs, couches, you name it, it’s on it. Children touching these surfaces then go onto eat food with meth on their hands, or, worse still, eat food that was directly exposed to meth vapour. The P contamination can take a long time to go through their system and the damage done could be irreparable.
The key word in that sentence is “intentionally.” And in this instance, the drug of choice was Heroin, which has to be injected. To inject your own child with an illegal street drug knowing the outcome is monstrous. There is no other word for it.
Whilst Heroin use exists in New Zealand, it is Meth that is rampant. So, let’s extrapolate this out to Meth use. Whilst meth can be injected, we have no examples of such monstrous behaviour like the above example. No one has been charged in New Zealand for injecting their children with meth. Not yet anyway.
However, smoking Meth produces a vapour that is then exhaled by the user into the air.
Yes, meth users blow the “smoke” out into the air that their children are breathing. So, no, not quite injecting, but as injecting is heroin’s main application, smoking meth is the procedure of choice for most users here in New Zealand.
So, the users smoke the meth, the meth vapour is then blown into the air and is breathed in by anyone else present. Yes, that includes the children.
The meth vapour then falls onto surfaces, walls, curtains, carpets, floors, tables. It clings and sticks to all surfaces. So, if not being breathed in directly, it contaminates anything the vapour touches.
And that is saddening.
That they USE and in that using, injure their children is a horrible testimony to the grip that this drug has over its users.
The damage that is done from a single inhalation of second hand meth is massive, let alone the damage done from long term exposure resulting in high levels of toxicity
Not to mention the P cooks and the process they use to cook methamphetamine.
Meth Cooks use chemicals that are highly toxic and incredible damaging both in recent exposure and long term exposure.
The contamination levels that we encounter on testing homes on a daily basis for meth users are shocking. The levels that we encounter when we test homes that have been used to cook meth are immoral of the highest order.
That is, that any human, meth cook or otherwise, should be exposed to that level of toxins and contaminants is reprehensible.
Let’s be frank.
The drug is making them use. That is, the chemical addiction that is a result of using meth is what is making them smoke, inhale, inject or otherwise use P.
THAT IS A CHOICE. That, is THEIR Choice!
Sure the chemical addiction to meth clouds judgement, forces them to make choices that ‘chase the dragon’ looking for their next high and trying to re-create that feeling of the first high that they will never get again.
They know that the “smoke” will “get” those around them high, and they MUST know that they are harming others by doing so. However, for some, it may not cross their mind that they are doing harm. But it sure as heck should.
It’s high time (no pun intended, this is not a laughing matter. Period) that education for meth users about second hand, and third hand meth users (third hand is the terminology used for surface and air contaminants) are made aware of the damage that they are doing to those around them.
Obviously, all those that know then want to help them, want them to get off the drug, we all would want to help. BUT. If they cannot get off it. If they are going to use. Then there must be education about using P safely, without using or cooking at the expense of others.
Your addiction is not my addiction, it is not your wife’s, your girlfriends, your sons or your daughters.
Whilst there are laws in place about use of drugs, about the manufacturing of drugs and about exposing children to harmful environments, there is currently no criminal law in place about the second hand or third hand damage of a person for exposure to chemicals.
There are worksafe laws surrounding the use and proper handling of chemicals in a workplace, but that does not apply here. There needs to be a criminal charge. Our laws need to adapt and change to reflect the adapting and changing society we live in.
Instead of a specific drug charge, the charge we have in New Zealand to combat harm to children is Wilful Neglect of a Child, found in The Crimes Act 1961, Section 195. This carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. That means, if you do this, you’re going to jail.
However, like all charges brought before the courts, that’s only if the authorities can prove it.
The law tells us that: a person (users or cooks) must intentionally engage in conduct that (intend to do something), or omits to discharge or perform any legal duty the omission of which (not do something they were supposed to do), is likely to cause suffering, injury, adverse effects to health (Exposure to meth fits in here), or any mental disorder or disability to a child or vulnerable adult (the victim) if the conduct engaged in, or the omission to perform the legal duty, is a major departure from the standard of care to be expected of a reasonable person.
Breaking that down further: “The meth head has to smoke or cook around the kids, knowing it might affect their health and society has to consider meth smoking around kids to a “bad thing”. Aka, “a major departure from the standard of care to be expected of a reasonable person.”
This means that if a P user or meth cook doesn’t “know” what the outcome of using meth around children would likely be, then they may not be found guilty.
But they KNOW, surely they know?
Sadly, like all laws, this appears to be a bit of loophole.
Much like this one criminal here who had her conviction quashed at appeal due to insufficient evidence of her intent to wilfully harm through neglect. That is, she said she “didn’t know what the affect would be of smoking around her child.”
What a miscarriage of justice this was. On appeal the judge said “there was insufficient evidence to place the woman in the category of a parent who was reckless with her child’s welfare…of a parent who…genuinely failed to appreciate her child’s needs through personal inadequacy or stupidity or both.”
If ignorance of the law is no excuse, then ignorance of a certain (or at the very least, a reckless course of behaviour) outcome is no grounds for an excuse. That is, if I drive my car in excess of the speed limit I “may” crash and, if I do, I then claim it wasn’t my fault? Well. I’m in charge of my actions and I know that driving fast may result in that regardless of personal inadequacy or stupidity or both. That being said, it does not excuse me from responsibility for my actions.
Regardless of the above example, the judge however, is correct. On the points of law and the evidence presented, there was insufficient to find her guilty and her conviction was quashed. Perhaps other charges could have been laid alongside to strengthen the matter?
In an article from September 2013,
“The Herald on Sunday reported last week police found 384 kids in P labs between 2006 and 2010. Convictions for neglect or abuse of children were obtained for only 19 of those cases.”
Only 19! That’s only 16% of all cases over four years. That’s 365 criminals that “got away with it!”
Inexcusable and criminal behaviour that is falling between the cracks. (Again, not intended to be funny)
One conviction resulted in jail for the mother for five and a half years, however, only four months was for wilfully neglecting her son.
The judge stated “hair samples from the boy revealed traces of methamphetamine and amphetamine in his system…meaning at some time he had ingested methamphetamine by breathing fumes or putting something in his mouth that had meth on it."
This cannot be allowed to continue to happen. We cannot put our children at risk.
Surely our society recognises that this is a problem and changes MUST be made.
Luckily our prosecuting authorities are now forewarned about this type of approach and combat this by establishing knowledge of their criminals misconducting through circumstances, thorough questioning and forensic testing. However, it won’t stop criminals from trying.
So, “intentionally” could be a punch, kick and all the usual things that you associate with force. But, it could just as easily be splashing someone with water with an intent to hurt them. It could be throwing an empty plastic drink bottle at someone as the term “applying force” is a sliding and subjective scale. From death to wounding, to injury to a little scratch, to a bruise to hurt feelings. Yes, psychological harm is included in assault. You can be “injured” psychologically.
So, if a smoker blows smoke in your face, and you feel harmed, subjectively, that’s assault.
Yes, blowing smoke, like spitting, in someone’s face falls into an act of intentionally applying force to another person. The smoke is harmful and is applied meaning “intentional force.”
If a meth user blows smoke out in your face or even your direction, that’s absolutely assault.
If a meth user blows p smoke out that then spreads out across a room and its “gets” into or on their children that are in that room, that’s assault.
What they are really doing is assaulting their children. Yes, they are intentionally harming them.
Laying charges “alongside” is common in law. That is, laying the Wilful Neglect charge, alongside an Assault charge. As an example, a speeding criminal pursued by Police will be charged with Dangerous Driving and possibly Failing to Stop (and possibly drunk driving). A person who assaults their partner and smashes up their house may be charged with assault and damaging a dwelling house. A burglar may be charged with burglary and possession of drugs (if they had them on them). And so on.
As an example of Meth Abuse, the below extract is from a message board that tells of a P users first hand experience of using meth and the effect on her children. I post it directly here as it paints an ugly picture and is a sobering read.
“I didn't smoke it "around" my children. I smoked it in my bedroom and bathroom behind locked doors. I thought I was being good...opening a window, turning on the ceiling fan, not letting my kids sleep in my room anymore for any reason.
But sometimes, the door was opened...and they came in. Never while I was actively smoking...but it was still not a safe place for them to be near.
My 4 year old son...I get teary-eyed when I remember this...his clean clothes were sitting in my bedroom. I didn't think it would be an issue. After a night of massive smoking by me and my tweaker buddies, the clothes were put away in his room the next day. That day, I had to watch my 4 year old son TWEAK. I kid you not, that boy was high. Kids have energy, but...no way. And even in my altered mental state, I still knew it was wrong and cruel. But did I re-wash them? Or think about quitting? Not till a couple months later.
He still has "itchies" all over his legs and feet. Even after everything has been cleaned and sanitized and disinfected. Some say it may not be from the meth. I say, he and I are the only ones with skin like this...along with my using pals. My hubby has em, too, but his are not as severe. My other son...not a spot or scab”.
Another example of “Meth Abuse” occurred with this criminal taking his son to a house with meth in it and directly exposed his child to meth use.
It was only after a drug screening test was carried out on his child that the authorities were able to act, and, even then, the child was only taken off the father and placed into the hands of welfare services. Have a read of the report here.
ilst this is in the states, the laws have not been updated to combat this scourge on society there either. The father has only been charged with child endangerment and should have been charged with Assault alongside. Although, its known as “Battery” as in “Assault and Battery” over there.
This is not the first time a call to action has been launched. In 2013 the New Zealand police Association made parliamentary submissions to add a specific charge to legislation in relation to these crimes. Part of that call to action resulted in a website. On our Useful Links page you will find a link to the Meth Help page of DrugHelp.org. that was established to help those in need.
That was then, and the 2013 Police National Crime Stats show that there were 16,070 total illicit drug crimes reported whereas the 2016 stats show 9993 reported drug crimes and whilst this, on the face of it is a decrease in offending, please note that this is “reported” drug crime. (Source)
That is, as usage of methamphetamine grows, more and more drug crime is not being reported to police. I’m sure you all understand why.
As shown in the TVNZ report from Friday 10th of February 2017, the “Charges Laid” “People Charged” and “Convictions Rate” from 2004 to 2016 shows a stark contrast and tells a story of increase, not decrease as the reported stats show. Click below to watch.
Either the Police got better at catching them, OR, use has increased, dramatically, which has resulted in a decrease of reporting.