Meth Researcher Thrilled With New Prime Minister
Waiheke Island lawyer and meth researcher Chloe Barker is thrilled to see Jacinda Ardern, who acted on her findings, become Prime Minister.
For her Master’s thesis, Barker carried out heart-breaking research on the impacts on children of growing up in methamphetamine laboratories in New Zealand.
She found that through contact with contaminated environments, children sometimes had levels of meth in their hair, blood and urine that were higher that that of addicts.
Although the impacts on children are devastating, the laws are “toothless” and often fail to protect them, Barker said.
After her research findings were published in a police magazine in 2012, Jacinda Ardern contacted her and suggested meeting over coffee.
“She was amazingly passionate and obviously really cared about the issue,” Barker said.
A Labour list MP at the time, Ardern arranged for broader publication of Barker’s research, helping to raise awareness of the issue.
Ardern cited Barker’s research in parliament to support law changes to make it a crime for people to manufacture meth when a child is present.
However, the Sentencing (Protection of Children from Criminal Offending) Amendment Bill never made it into law.
Police can prosecute meth manufacturers under general child abuse laws, but the rates of conviction are low, because it is hard to prove children have been intentionally harmed by P [methamphetamine] manufacture, Barker said.
Ardern campaigned for a protocol to be introduced assigning responsibilities to the police and Child, Youth and Family (CYF) when children are found in P labs. New protocols have since been developed.
“I was really impressed that she had a million things on her plate, but she cared enough to be proactive and make practical changes that have assisted the police.
“I’m absolutely stoked about Jacinda becoming the Prime Minister.
“I think she’s going to give a voice to a lot of people who don’t have a voice currently,” Barker said.
Examining police files, Barker found that from 2006 to 2010, 191 children were living in the presence of methamphetamine laboratories that were shut down by police.
In 2002, children were living in 34 percent of the houses where laboratories were discovered.
The dangers of growing up in P laboratories include exposure to toxic chemicals, risks of explosions and fires, and a higher likelihood of having weapons in the house.
Children in meth laboratories also face higher risks of physical, sexual and emotional abuse, she said.
“Given everybody can clearly see the dangers to children, there should be a specific law that says if you cook meth in the presence of a child, you’re committing a crime,” Barker said.
The 39-year-old has returned to her full time job as a commercial lawyer after completing her Master of Forensic Science degree at the University of Auckland.
Barker said Ardern won’t provide a “magic answer” for all life’s ills, but she is hopeful children might yet get the legal protection from meth exposure that they deserve.
“There is obviously a problem with P on Waiheke and I’m sure there are lots of communities around New Zealand that are exactly the same,” she said.