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Police opinion on S59 welcomed

21 August 2005

Police opinion on S59 welcomed

The Green Party has welcomed a legal opinion from the Office of the Police Commissioner about the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which presently allows parents to get away with violent attacks on their children.

The opinion states that police investigating complaints of assault against children, "as is the case with all assault investigations, would consider the amount of force used in the circumstances before making a decision about whether prosecution is required in the public interest".

The police legal opinion also says that police would not prosecute parents who used physical force when they remove their children from danger.

"These two statements from the police themselves only serve to support the point that I and groups like Plunket have been making - that should we get full repeal of Section 59, police will not suddenly start arresting parents who pull their child away from a power point or who lightly smack their children."

"Section 194(a) of the Crimes Act already outlaws assaulting children under 14 and imposes a maximum two-year prison term on anyone who does. In situations such as these, as in all assault investigations, police already use their discretion and consider the amount of force used before deciding whether to lay charges. I have never heard of a case where a parent has been arrested and charged for lightly smacking a child, and it is ludicrous to suggest this will change if Section 59 is repealed.

"All I aim to achieve with repeal is to remove the defence of 'reasonable force' which allows some parents to get away with beating their children quite badly, for example with canes, horse crops, hosepipes and pieces of wood."

The police legal opinion, sought by Family Integrity, has been used by that lobby group and National MP Judith Collins to whip up fear that good parents will go to prison - that is just not the case, Ms Bradford says.

"Mrs Collins should know better than to buy into this kind of spin, particularly given her experience as a mother, a lawyer and as a member of the Social Services Select Committee.' Ms Bradford says.

The police message reinforces the sanity of the call to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

"The police response is exactly what I have been saying in meetings around the country," Ms Bradford says.


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