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Justice Minister Responds To UN Report On Children

Justice Minister Phil Goff says that Cabinet has noted the views of the United Nations Committee on Children that section 59 of the Crimes Act is inconsistent with the Convention on Rights of the Child.

"Section 59 of the Crimes Act does not sanction the use of violence, excessive force or abuse against children. Those actions are illegal under law. What section 59 does do is to provide a defence, which enables parents lawfully to use reasonable force to discipline their children.

"The Government supports programmes such as 'Alternatives to Smacking' which helps parents to find more effective ways to discipline their children than using physical force.

"It is also examining how countries similar to New Zealand have addressed this issue and sought to comply with the Convention on Rights of the Child.

"However it is not my intention as Minister of Justice to criminalise parents who smack their children without using excessive force.

"It is better to work with parents to improve parenting than to try to impose on people a position which the vast majority would reject. In 1993 a survey by the Office of the Commissioner for Children of 1000 adults found 87% thought that on occasions it was alright to smack a child.

"Over time that view may change. However without doubt the pressing concern of most New Zealanders is not smacking but the serious physical, emotional and sexual abuse which too many children are subject to. It is that issue which Parliament and society must address as a priority," Mr Goff said.


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