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Media release - Justice and Electoral Committee

20 November 2006

Media release - Justice and Electoral Committee

The Justice and Electoral Committee is supporting a law change designed to remove the statutory defence for parents who use force against their children for the purpose of correction, but with some amendments to clarify that reasonable force can be used when a parent is protecting a child from harm.

The committee's recommendations are contained in its report to the House on the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill. The committee recommends, by majority, that section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 be replaced by a new section that will remove the defence of using "reasonable force" against a child for the purpose of correction. The committee members all agree that the existing defence should not be used to protect parents who abuse their children.

The New Zealand National party members' concerns are set out in a minority view in the committee's report on the bill.

Submitters told the committee about their concern that parents could be prosecuted for using physical correction. "We were advised that the rate of prosecution of parents for the use of force against their children depends on police practice, as it does for other assaults," committee chairperson Lynne Pillay says. "There are safeguards in the criminal justice system that will minimise the likelihood of prosecution for minor acts of physical punishment and options available other than formal prosecution, such as warnings and cautions. We expect prosecutors not to bring trifling matters before the Court."

"We are also aware that there is a level of concern that parents could be prosecuted for actions such as pulling a child's hand away from a hot stove element. Our recommended new section 59 clarifies that reasonable force may be used for purposes such as protecting a child from harm or providing normal daily care (such as dental care or restraining with a car seat belt)," Ms Pillay says.

The committee's report can be viewed at http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/SC/Reports or purchased from Bennetts Government Bookshops.


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