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Law Society Sec59 paper welcome but on wrong track

17 October 2005

Law Society Sec59 paper welcome, but on wrong track

The Auckland District Law Society's new paper on Section 59 is a welcome addition to the debate but the Green Party cannot support some of its proposals, Children's Issues Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

The Society's Public Issue Committee has today published 'Criminal Responsibility for Domestic Discipline: The Repeal or Amendment of Crimes Act 1961 section 59' in response to Ms Bradford's Private Members' Bill, which is expected to be considered early in the new parliamentary term by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

"I welcome the input from the Law Society to the debate and, given this paper is likely to be close to their submission, recognise that the weight it is ultimately given will rest with the Select Committee," Ms Bradford says.

"However, given they have published it ahead of Parliament sitting, I must make it clear that I disagree with their recommended changes on two counts.

"Firstly, I believe further definition of what force against children is acceptable in the eyes of the state will only make a bad situation worse. They suggest that, rather than outright repeal, the degree and nature of acceptable violence against children can be calibrated - e.g. by saying that it is okay to use force against three to twelve-year-olds and that there should be no 'striking above the shoulder'. I believe all children have the right to live in violence-free homes.

"Secondly the Society argues there should continue to be a defence of legally justified force against children when no similar defence exists for adults who have been assaulted. Similarly, they appear to support the current law, which doesn't allow children to be assaulted within the education system, but accepts it as standard practice within the home.

"Lets make it clear, in attempting to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act I am not seeking to criminalise parents who lightly smack their children.

"I believe if this section is repealed, the police will fall back on the laws of assault and on their usual practice of only prosecuting people for assault when the force used in the circumstances justifies it, as happens now with assaults against adults," Ms Bradford says.


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