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Smith: Support parents, don't make them crims

Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Smith: Support parents, don't make them crims

United Future MP, Murray Smith, today continued his campaign to prevent normal kiwi parents from becoming criminals if they attempt to discipline their children.

He said the Minister of Social Development needs to read the Crimes Act so that he appreciates that the removal of s59 will make parents who use any physical force on their children guilty of a criminal offence.

(Section 59 allows parents to use a defence of reasonable force to punish their children.)

"The Minister has refused to accept my argument that simply removing s59 without replacing it with something else would mean that any parent who physically disciplined a child would be committing a criminal offence."

Section 194 of the Crimes Act is very clear, Mr Smith said.

"It provides that "Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who assaults any child under the age of 14 years". Assault is defined in the Crimes Act as "the act of intentionally applying or attempting to apply force to the person of another, directly or indirectly, or threatening by any act or gesture to apply such force to the person of another, if the person making the threat has, or causes the other to believe on reasonable grounds that he has, present ability to effect his purpose".

"Without s59, a parent has no legal justification for applying force or threatening to apply force to their child and is therefore committing a criminal offence if they do so."

Mr Smith said no one is prepared to tolerate child abuse but if the Government and Green MP Sue Bradford are being truthful in saying that they don't want to criminalize parents who give an occasional moderate smack to their children, then they should look to replace s59 with his Members' Bill which seeks to guide the courts in determining whether the force used was appropriate physical discipline or abuse.


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