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83% Still Want Smacking Law Fixed – Poll

Filed under: General,Law & Courts — Julie @ 8:56 am Thu 19th March 2009

We thought you’d be interested in Famiy First’s latest Media Release. Feel free to forward it on to your local MP and others on your Contacts list.

PS… If you support the work and ‘voice’ of Family First NZ and would be willing to contribute towards the cost of this research, we would greatly appreciate it! DONATE HERESmall amounts of money are appreciated just as large amounts and donations are tax deductible … “Donations qualify for the Donation Rebate”..

Family First Media Release 18 March 2009

Almost two years after the passing of the controversial anti-smacking law, more than 80% of NZ’ers still want the law changed and 77% say that the law won’t have any effect on our unacceptable child abuse rate.

These are the key finding of research commissioned by Family First NZ, following on from similar research in 2007 and 2008. The Curia Market Research poll surveyed 1,000 people, and also found huge confusion over the legal effect of the law.

83% said that the new law should be changed to state explicitly that parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law (85% in 2008, 82% in 2007).

83% say the law should be changed — only 13% say to keep it as is
77% says the law won’t help reduce the rate of child abuse in NZ
Less than one third of respondents actually understand the law

“This is essentially the same question that will be put to NZ’ers in the Referendum at the end of July. The government can save $8 million of taxpayer funding towards the cost of running the Referendum during a recession, and amend the law now,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Respondents were also asked whether the new law makes it always illegal for parents to give their children a light smack. 55% said yes, 31% said no, and 14% didn’t know.

“This proves just how confusing the law is to parents and it is this confusion that is causing huge harm. Parents have been given conflicting messages by the promoters of the law, legal opinions have contradicted each other, and on top of that is police discretion but not CYF discretion to investigate.”

“Parents have a right to know whether they are parenting within the law or not. This law has just created confusion and as a result, good parents are being victimised,” says Mr McCoskrie. “Meanwhile, the rate of child abuse continues. This flawed law must be fixed and the real causes of child abuse confronted.”

The poll was conducted during the week beginning March 9, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.2%.


  1. This poll may well be true but no political party in the house will take up the issue. National (lead by John Key) did the deal with Bradford and Clark to support the legislative change. National will not undo anything.
    I predict the referendum in July will have an extremely low turnout and will cost a huge sum. Bob McCoskrie and others will be portrayed as villains for wasting 8 million and in the current economic climate the criticism and backlash will be savage. Even if the poll result is 100% in favour of a legislative change getting less than 15% to the poll still means it is worthless and our legislators will do nothing.
    Family First lost the battle two years ago and the public would prefer if they died more quietly.

    Comment by allan Harvey — Thu 19th March 2009 @ 9:19 am

  2. Hi Allen.

    I am a public person. And I don’t want this to die quietly.

    I also knocked on hundreds of doors for the petition for a referendum and everyone told me they want it changed also.

    Comment by julie — Thu 19th March 2009 @ 1:36 pm

  3. Switzerland has binding referendums and so should we. A lot of people would parcicipate if it was binding.

    Comment by Dave — Thu 19th March 2009 @ 5:18 pm

  4. There is a blog being reported in the news, claiming the Bradford law is a good one and just “misunderstood” and providing a shallow analysis including describing a huge total of two cases where parents previously got off what appeared to be abuse through the “reasonable force” defence. I suspect the blog is a deliberate dishonesty by some longstanding Bradford supporter who seeks a new angle to manipulate public opinion. Some may wish to contribute to the ensuing debate, here:

    Comment by Hans Laven — Thu 19th March 2009 @ 9:42 pm

  5. Family First Welcomes Bill to Fix Smacking Law

    Family First NZ is ‘stoked’ that ACT List MP John Boscawen has announced his intention to introduce a Private Members Bill to amend the anti-smacking law .

    “Our polling along with every other poll done over the past 3 years shows that approximately 80% of NZ’ers oppose this law — and for good reason,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “This flawed law has attempted to link a smack on the bottom with child abuse of the worst kind, and has put good parents raising law-abiding and responsible citizens in the same category as rotten parents who are a danger to their kids and to society in general.”

    “Not surprisingly, the child abuse rate has continued unabated with 12 child abuse deaths in the 21 months since the law was passed — the same rate as before the law was passed.”

    “Family First research has also shown that parents are hugely confused over the legal effect of the law. Parents have a right to know whether they are parenting within the law or not.”

    The 2007 UNICEF report on child wellbeing said “ the likelihood of a child being injured or killed is associated with poverty, single-parenthood, low maternal education, low maternal age at birth, poor housing, weak family ties, and parental drug or alcohol abuse.”

    Family First is calling on National to adopt this bill as a government bill, to acknowledge the important and valued role of good parents, and to then target resources and effort at the real causes of child abuse .

    PS… if you appreciate the voice and work of Family First NZ, would you consider supporting us. We exist because of your generosity and support. DONATE HERE

    Comment by julie — Fri 20th March 2009 @ 9:08 am

  6. This is copied from Wikepedia:
    Several agencies responsible for child health have issued policies against corporal punishment.
    United Nations
    UNESCO recommends that corporal punishment be prohibited in schools, homes and institutions as a form of discipline, and claims that it is a violation of human rights as well as counterproductive, ineffective, dangerous and harmful to children.[25]
    The Australian Psychological Society holds that corporal punishment of children is an ineffective method of deterring unwanted behavior, promotes undesirable behaviors and fails to demonstrate an alternative desirable behavior.[26]
    The Canadian Pediatrics Society reviewed research on spanking and concluded that it was associated with negative outcomes, and physicians recommended against spanking.[27]
    United Kingdom
    The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is against spanking[28] and opposes striking of children in all circumstances.[29] The Royal College of Psychiatrists also takes the position that corporal punishment is unacceptable in all circumstances.[30]
    United States
    The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that corporal punishment possesses some negative side-effects and only limited benefits, and recommends the use of other forms of discipline to manage undesirable behavior.[31] The American Psychological Association believes that the use of physical punishment in institutions that care for children is unlikely to improve problem behavior and poses the risk of significant negative side-effects including poor self-esteem, hostility, and a greater tendency to use physical aggression.[32]
    Legal status
    According to Save the Children, the corporal punishment of children within families (whether strictly speaking “spanking” or not) is illegal in 24 countries.[13] The table below shows the legal situation of spanking administered by parents/legal guardians upon their children in the home:
    Year Country Comments
    1979 Sweden Illegal
    1983 Finland Illegal
    1987 Norway
    Illegal (a light “careful slap” applied immediately after the “offence” is still allowed [1] [2])

    1989 Austria
    1994 Cyprus
    1997 Denmark
    1998 Latvia
    1999 Croatia
    2000 Bulgaria
    2000 Israel
    2000 Germany
    2003 Iceland
    2004 Romania
    2004 Ukraine
    2005 Hungary
    2006 Greece
    2007 Chile
    2007 Netherlands
    2007 New Zealand
    2007 Portugal
    2007 Spain
    2007 Uruguay
    2007 Venezuela
    2008 Costa Rica
    2008 Italy
    Spanking forbidden by the Supreme Court
    2008 Canada
    Spanking allowed but restricted, only children between 2 and 12 may be spanked and only with an open hand.
    2008 Australia
    Spanking allowed, smacking on face and head prohibited
    2008 United Kingdom
    Spanking and smacking allowed, marks on body prohibited
    2008 United States
    Spanking allowed in all states; the line between permitted corporal punishment and what is legally defined as abuse varies by state and is not always clear (laws typically allow “reasonable force” and “non-excessive corporal punishment”)
    Spanking laws in the United States
    ALASKA Sec. 11.81.430. Force is justified when and to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to promote a child’s welfare. Parent/guardian/other person with care and supervision of child under 18 may use reasonable and appropriate non-deadly force upon the child.
    ARIZONA Sec. 13-403. Parent/guardian may use reasonable and appropriate physical force upon the minor when and to the extent reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain discipline.
    ARKANSAS Sec. 9-27-303(3).Abuse does not include physical discipline of a child if reasonable and moderate and inflicted by a parent or guardian for restraining or correcting a child. Sec. 5-2-605(l).Parent/guardian/other with care and supervision of a minor may use reasonable and appropriate physical force when and to the extent reasonably necessary to maintain discipline or promote the welfare of the child.
    CALIFORNIA Welf. and Inst. Code Sec. 300. Law not intended to prohibit the use of reasonable methods of parental discipline, or to prescribe a particular method of parenting… Serious physical harm does not include reasonable and age-appropriate spanking to the buttocks where there is no evidence of serious physical injury.
    COLORADO Sec. 19-1-103(b)Any investigation of child abuse shall take into account the child-rearing practices of the child’s culture. Child abuse and neglect does not include acts which can be reasonably construed to be a reasonable exercise of parental discipline. Sec. 18-1-703.Parent/guardian/ person with care and supervision of minor can use reasonable and appropriate physical force, if it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain or promote welfare of child.
    CONNECTICUT Sec. 53a-18.Parent/guardian/person with care and supervision of a minor may use reasonable physical force, when and to the extent that he reasonably believes necessary to maintain discipline or promote welfare of minor.
    DELAWARE Sec. 468.Force is justifiable if reasonable and moderate and by parent/guardian/foster parent/legal custodian/other similar person responsible for care and supervision.
    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Sec. 6-2101.Abuse includes excessive corporal punishment. Sec. 16-2301.Abuse includes when a parent/guardian/custodian inflicts or fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the infliction of physical or mental injury, including excessive corporal punishment.
    FLORIDA Sec. 39.01(2).Corporal discipline of a child by a parent/legal custodian does not, in itself, constitute abuse when it does not result in harm to the child. Sec. 39.01(2).
    GEORGIA Secs. 19-7-5/ 19-15-1/49-5-180.Physical forms of discipline may be used as long as there is no physical injury to the child. Sec. 16-3-20.Parent or person in loco parentis reasonably disciplining of a minor has a justification defense for a criminal prosecution based on that conduct. Sec. 19-13-1.The term “family violence” shall not be deemed to include reasonable discipline administered by a parent to a child in the form of corporal punishment, restraint, or detention.
    HAWAII Sec. 703-309.Parent/guardian/person responsible for general care and supervision of minor/person acting at request of above may use force if. — employed with due regard for age and size of minor and reasonably related to purpose of safeguarding or promoting welfare of minor, including prevention or punishment of minor’s conduct, and — not designed to cause or known to create a risk of causing substantial bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, mental distress, or neurological damage.
    IDAHO Sec. 16-2002.Abuse includes physical cruelty in excess of that required for reasonable disciplinary purposes, inflicted by a parent or other person in whom legal custody is vested.
    ILLINOIS Secs. 325 5/3/ . An “abused child” includes any child whose parent/immediate family member/person responsible for the child’s welfare/individual residing in the same house/paramour of child’s parent inflicts excessive corporal punishment.
    INDIANA Sec. 31-34-1-15. Law does not limit right of parent/guardian/custodian to use reasonable corporal punishment when disciplining a child.
    IOWA Sec. 232.71B . The use of corporal punishment by the person responsible for the care of a child, which does not result in a physical injury to the child shall not be considered abuse (unless otherwise prohibited).
    KANSAS Sec. 21-3609. Abuse of a child is intentionally torturing, cruelly beating, or shaking, which results in great bodily harm including cruel and inhuman corporal punishment upon any child.
    KENTUCKY Sec. 503.110. Parent/guardian/person with care and supervision of minor can use force if person believes force necessary for welfare of child and force is not designed to cause or known to cause a substantial risk of causing death, serious physical injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, or extreme mental distress.
    LOUISIANA Children’s Code Art. 615(A). In determining abuse the agency should take into account that an injury may have resulted from what might be considered reasonable discipline for a child’s misbehavior. Sec. 14:18. Parent reasonably disciplining a minor has a justification defense to a criminal prosecution based on that conduct.
    MAINE 17-A Sec. 106. Parent/foster parent/guardian or other similar person responsible for the long term general care and welfare of a person is justified in using a reasonable degree of force against such person when and to the extent that he reasonably believes necessary to prevent or punish such person’s misconduct. Justification does not extend to purposeful or reckless use of force that creates a substantial risk of death, serious bodily harm, or extraordinary pain.
    MARYLAND Sec. 4-501. Law does not prohibit reasonable punishment by parent or stepparent, including reasonable corporal punishment, evaluated in light of the age and condition of child.
    MASSACHUSETTS 110 Sec. 2 . “Abuse” is the non-accidental commission of any act by a caretaker upon a child which causes, or creates a substantial risk of physical or emotional injury. Physical injury defined as fracture of any bone, subdural hematoma, burns, impairment of any organ, any other such nontrivial injury, or soft tissue swelling or skin bruising depending upon such factors as the child’s age, circumstances under which the injury occurred and the number and location of bruises. Massachusetts Supreme Court 1999: A man who spanked his son with a belt was declared innocent by Massachusetts Supreme Court : Cobble v. Commissioner of Dept. of Social Services, 719 N.E.2d 500 (Mass. 1999)
    MICHIGAN Sec. 750.136b . Parent/guardian/other person permitted by law, or authorized by parent, or guardian can take steps to reasonably discipline a child, including the use of reasonable force.
    MINNESOTA Sec. 609.379. Parent/legal guardian/caretaker of child can use reasonable force to restrain or correct a child. Sec. 626.556. Subd. 2. Definitions… (g)… Abuse does not include reasonable and moderate physical discipline of a child administered by a parent or legal guardian which does not result in an injury. Minnesota Supreme Court 2008 (a man who had spanked his son 36 times with a paddle was declared innocent): “We are unwilling to establish a bright-line rule that the infliction of any pain constitutes either physical injury or physical abuse, because to do so would effectively prohibit all corporal punishment of children by their parents” and “It is clear to us that the Legislature did not intend to ban corporal punishment.”
    MISSISSIPPI Sec. 43-21-105. Physical discipline, including spanking, performed on a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian, in a reasonable manner shall not be deemed abuse.
    MISSOURI Sec. 210.110. Discipline including spanking, administered in a reasonable manner, is not abuse. Sec. 563.061. Force justified if by parent/guardian/other person entrusted with care and supervision of minor if:-Person believes force necessary to promote welfare of minor, and – Force used is not designed to cause or believed to create a substantial risk of causing death, serious 000physical injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, or extreme emotional distress.
    MONTANA Sec. 45-3-107. Parent or authorized agent of parent/guardian/master/teacher is justified to use force if reasonable and necessary to restrain or correct child.
    NEBRASKA Sec. 28-1413. Parent/guardian/person responsible for care and supervision/person acting at one of the above’s request is justified to use force on a minor if for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting the welfare of minor, including prevention or punishment of misconduct, but not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death, serious bodily harm, disfigurement, extreme pain, mental distress, or gross degradation.
    NEVADA Sec. 432B.260. A child abuse investigation is not warranted if the agency determines that the alleged abuse was the result of the reasonable exercise of discipline by a parent or guardian involving the use of corporal punishment, including, without limitation, spanking or paddling; and corporal punishment so administered was not so excessive as to constitute abuse.
    NEW HAMPSHIRE Sec. 627:6. Parent/guardian/person/teacher responsible for general care and welfare of minor may use force against minor when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or punish minor’s misconduct. No defense available for malicious or reckless use of force that creates risk of death, serious bodily injury, or substantial pain.
    NEW JERSEY Sec. 2C:3-8. Person entrusted with special responsibility for care, supervision, discipline, or safety of another may use force against them if for the purpose of and to the extent necessary to further the responsibility.
    NEW MEXICO Sec. 32A-4-2(B). An abused child includes one who has been cruelly punished by a parent/ guardian/ custodian. Sec. 30-6-1. Abuse includes knowingly, intentionally, or negligently permitting or causing a child to be cruelly punished.
    NEW YORK Penal Sec. 35:10. Parent/guardian/other person with care and supervision of person under 21, can use non-deadly physical force when and to the extent he reasonably believes necessary to maintain discipline or promote welfare of person force performed upon.
    NORTH CAROLINA Juvenile Code Sec. 7B-101. “Abused juvenile” is any juvenile under 18 whose parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker inflicts or allows to be inflicted by other than accidental means a serious physical injury or uses or allows to be used cruel or grossly inappropriate procedures or cruel or grossly inappropriate devices to modify behavior.
    NORTH DAKOTA Sec. 12.1-05-05. Parent/guardian/other person (not including school district employee) responsible for care and supervision of minor/person acting at direction of the above can use reasonable force on a minor for safeguarding or promoting his welfare, including prevention or punishment of his misconduct and maintenance of proper discipline. Force does not have to be “necessary,” but cannot create substantial risk of death, serious bodily injury or disfigurement, or gross degradation.
    OHIO Sec. 2151.031. “Abused child” includes one who exhibits evidence of any physical or mental injury or death, inflicted by other than accidental means, or any injury or death which is at variance with the history given of it. Except a child exhibiting evidence of corporal punishment or other physical disciplinary measure by a parent/guardian/custodian/person having custody or control/or person in loco parentis of a child is not an abused child.
    OKLAHOMA 21 Sec. 844. Parents/other persons can use ordinary force as a means of discipline, including but not limited to spanking, switching, or paddling.
    OREGON Sec. 161.205. Physical force is justified if parent/guardian/other person with the care and supervision of a minor uses reasonable force when and to the extent the person reasonably believes necessary to maintain discipline or promote welfare of minor.
    PENNSYLVANIA 23 Sec. 6302. Parents can use reasonable supervision and control when raising their children. 18 Sec. 509. Parent/guardian/person responsible for general care and supervision/ person acting at request of the above may use force for the purpose of safeguarding or promoting welfare of minor including the prevention or punishment of his misconduct, and if the force is not designed to cause or known to create a substantial risk of causing death, serious bodily injury, disfigurement, extreme pain, mental distress, or gross degradation.
    RHODE ISLAND Sec. 40-11-2. Abuse occurs when a child’s physical or mental welfare is harmed or threatened by a parent or person responsible for child’s welfare, by means including excessive corporal punishment which causes physical or mental injury or creates or allows to be created a substantial risk of physical or mental injury. Sec. 11-9-5.3. Serious physical injury is Any injury, other than a serious bodily injury, arising from other than non-excessive corporal punishment.
    SOUTH CAROLINA Sec. 20-7-490. “Harm” includes inflicting or allowing to be inflicted physical or mental injury sustained as a result of excessive corporal punishment. “Harm” does not include corporal punishment or physical discipline if- Administered by a parent or person acting in place of a parent, Perpetrated for the sole purpose of restraining or correcting, Force is reasonable in manner and moderate in degree, There is no permanent damage, and Behavior of parent is not reckless or grossly negligent. Sec. 16-3-95. Corporal punishment of a child or physical discipline administered by a parent or person in loco parentis in a manner which does not cause great bodily injury is not prohibited.
    SOUTH DAKOTA Sec. 22-18-5 . Parent/guardian/teacher/school official can use, attempt, or offer to use force if reasonable in manner and moderate in degree, and used to restrain or correct as necessitated by misconduct or refusal to obey a lawful command.
    TENNESSEE Sec. 39-15-401. Permits criminal charges against a parent/guardian/custodian who administers “unreasonable” corporal punishment, which causes “injury” to the child.
    TEXAS Family Code Sec. 261.001. Abuse does not include reasonable discipline by a parent/guardian/managing or possessory conservator if child not exposed to substantial risk of harm. Penal Sec. 9.61. Parent/stepparent/person standing in loco parentis to child is justified to use non-deadly force against a child under 18 when and to degree the actor reasonably believes necessary to discipline, or safeguard or promote child’s welfare.
    UTAH Sec. 76-2-401. Force is justified if used for reasonable discipline of a minor by parent/guardian/person standing in loco parentis. Defense not available if caused serious bodily injury or death.
    VERMONT Vermont Supreme Court 2000: Parent has a right to inflict corporal punishment on a child subject to his disciplinary control when motivated by a corrective purpose and not by anger, when not inflicted upon frivolous pretenses, when it is not excessive or otherwise unreasonably inflicted, and when it is not cruel or merciless. State v. Martin, 751 A.2d 769 (Vt., 2000)
    VIRGINIA Virginia Supreme Court: Excessive, unreasonable, or cruel punishment is unlawful. A parent has the right to administer such reasonable and timely punishment as may be necessary to correct faults in children. The right cannot be used as a cloak for the exercise of malevolence or the exhibition of uncontrolled passion on the part of the parent. Punishment must be within the bounds of moderation and reason and for the welfare of child, if due moderation is exceeded then parent is criminally liable. The age, size and conduct of child will be considered as well as the instrument used for punishment and the kind of marks or wounds inflicted on the child’s body. Carpenter v. Commonwealth, 44 S.E.2d 419 (Va., 1947)
    WASHINGTON Sec. 26.44.015. Reasonable parental discipline which does not injure child’s health, welfare, and safety, including reasonable use of corporal punishment as a means of discipline is not prohibited. 9A.16.100. Physical discipline is not unlawful if reasonable and moderate and inflicted by parent /guardian for restraint or correction….
    WEST VIRGINIA Sec. 49-1-3 . Physical injury can include that which is the result of excessive corporal punishment.
    WISCONSIN Sec. 939.45. Use of force is justified when actor’s conduct is reasonable discipline of a child by a person responsible for child’s welfare. Reasonable discipline may involve only such force as a reasonable person believes is necessary. Never reasonable to use force intended to cause great bodily harm or death, or which creates an unreasonable risk of great bodily harm or death.
    WYOMING Sec. 14-3-202. Abuse means inflicting or causing physical or mental injury to a child other than by accidental means including by excessive or unreasonable corporal punishment. Physical injury means any harm to a child including, but not limited to, disfigurement, impairment of any bodily organ, skin bruising if greater in magnitude than minor bruising associated with reasonable corporal punishment, bleeding, burns, fracture of any bone, subdural hemotoma or substantial malnutrition. Sec. 6-2-503. Same definition as civil abuse definition – definition of physical injuries excludes those as a result of reasonable corporal punishment.
    Non-punitive and voluntary spankings
    Spanking exists in spheres of life distinct from punishment. Note the issue of legal consent which may or may not represent a defence to criminal liability for any injuries caused during the spanking. Apart from the erotic and from fraternity/sorority-type initiations, which may have their origin in educational (domestic or boot camp) types of discipline, these include:
    Folkloristic spanking traditions
    In Latvia there is a tradition of spanking on Palm Sunday (called Pussy willow Sunday) morning. The spanker sneaks into the potential spankee’s bedroom and wakes him or her up. The whipping is done with pussy willow branches or (rarely) birch. This ritual spanking is often applied to the bare buttocks. [33] Sometimes spanking is done in early morning with aspen tree birch, while people are sleeping naked or in nightgown.[34]
    Religious customs
    On the first day of the lunar Chinese new year holidays, a week-long ‘Spring Festival’, the most important festival for Chinese people all over the world, thousands of Chinese visit the Taoist Dong Lung Gong temple in Tungkang to go through the century-old ritual to get rid of bad luck, men by receiving spankings and women by being whipped (as in the Ancient Roman -unisex- Lupercalia); the number of strokes to being administered (always lightly) by the temple staff is decided in either case by the god Wang Ye and by burning incense and tossing two pieces of wood, after which all go home happily, believing their luck will improve.[35]
    On Easter Monday, there is a slavic tradition of hitting girls and young ladies with woven willow switches (Czech: pomlázka; Slovak: korbá?) and dousing them with water.[36][37][38]
    Birthday spanking
    There is a custom in some cultures to administer spankings to the buttocks of the birthday celebrant. Customarily, the person receives the number of smacks corresponding to his or her age. Also included is “one to grow on,” a final swat often harder than the rest.

    Comment by achurch001 — Wed 25th March 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  7. John Boscawen ACT MP
    26 March 2009
    Time for Clarity

    All parents should have the fundamental ability to bring their children up as well rounded, law abiding citizens in the best way they see fit – a right that was taken away by Labour’s passage of Sue Bradford’s Anti-Smacking law 21 months ago.

    Labour and the Greens might not like to admit it but, although there are exceptions, the vast majority of New Zealand parents are decent and loving – and, as such, more than capable of deciding how best to raise their children into the successful and upstanding citizens that we want them to be.

    It is for this reason that I have submitted my Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill: to restore parents’ fundamental right to use all reasonable methods available in order to raise their children as well-rounded and law-abiding citizens.

    The fact is that most parents do not actually WANT to smack their children and only use it as a last resort after all other options have been exhausted. In most cases of parental discipline, guidance and correction is distinctly NON-physical. However there ARE occasions on which a parent may reasonably decide that correcting their child’s behaviour requires some degree of physical action.

    Currently Section 59(2) of the Crimes Act states that “Nothing … justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.” This means that any parent who corrects their child by use of a light smack is now committing assault. Thus, parents who would never dream of abusing their children do not even have the authority to decide for themselves whether or not they can use a light smack to correct their behaviour.

    But the problems go so much further than just taking away a parent’s freedom to choose how they raise their child. As though it were not enough to simply tell parents they cannot lightly smack their children, this law has created uncertainty among parents about what they can or cannot do. It does so by stating that Police have the discretion NOT to prosecute if the offence is deemed so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

    So which is it? Will a parent who lightly smacks their child be charged — or will police ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ turn a blind eye? The situation makes no sense; there is no respect for the law in the fact that police can turn a blind eye to an offence, and parents are left confused as to whether they will be charged or not.

    Further, the law — while stating that police have discretion over whether or not to charge a parent for smacking a child — says nothing of the Department of Child, Youth and Family. There is nothing to stop a witness — who sees a parent smacking their child’s hand in the supermarket – from reporting a parent to CYF, which could then investigate the parent and possibly take the matter further.

    My Bill gets rid of this confusion with an additional clause that states that reasonable force can be used for the purpose of correcting a child’s behaviour. The Bill removes clause 59(2) as stated above and replaces this with guidelines that clearly outline the circumstances in which the use of force may be unreasonable. These are: if the force causes the child to suffer injury that is more than transitory and trifling or materially contributes thereto; it is inflicted by any weapon, tool, or other implement; it is inflicted by any means that is cruel or degrading.

    These terms do not, of course, relate to circumstances where the person applying the force reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent death or serious harm to the child or another person.

    No one wants to see the removal of any measure that could possibly have some chance of preventing even one child from being abused. But, at the same time, law-abiding parents deserve some certainty about what they can and cannot do — and the ability to choose for themselves how to raise their children.

    It is for this reason that ACT does not wish to revert to the situation that we had before the Anti-Smacking law. ACT wants to repeal and replace Section 59 of the Crimes Act. This is an attempt to give parents certainty about what they can and cannot do when it comes to the raising of their children — so they know what is acceptable in the eyes of the law and what is not.

    More, however, it is to let parents do what they do best: parent. It is parents in the home who are best equipped to judge how best to correct their children’s behaviour — not politicians sitting in an office in Wellington . The sooner Parliament recognises that, the sooner parents can reclaim their fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit.

    Comment by julie — Sun 5th April 2009 @ 11:52 pm

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