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S59 repeal no threat to good parents

1 March 2007

Minister confirms S59 repeal no threat to good parents

Green Party MP Sue Bradford today welcomed the assurance in Parliament by the Police Minister that police procedural guidelines exist to protect people from being prosecuted for a trivial, or merely technical offence.

"What Phil Goff, speaking on behalf of Police Minister Annette King said was that in all cases, the police weigh whether it is in the public interest to bring matters before the courts - and among other things, they consider the sufficiency of reliable evidence, the mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the public interest served by prosecution, the alternatives available, and - with respect to alleged assaults - the amount of force used," Ms Bradford says.

"This completely torpedoes the vocal opposition to my bill to repeal S59 of the Crimes Act. My opponents have delighted in spreading myths that good parents will be prosecuted for light smacking of their children, and that good parents will be criminalized.

"All along, I have argued that this is not the case - that police do not mount prosecutions for assault on the basis of trivial, or trifling complaints. As the Minister says, the police would weigh the decision to prosecute on several grounds, including the seriousness or triviality of the offence. In the light of the Minister's answers, it is very hard to see how light smacking could ever clear the police procedural hurdles.

"Routinely, the very existence of laws put people at risk of technical breach. Yet a speed limit of 50kms does not criminalize everyone who travels occasionally at 51kms. Moreover, I don't think anyone in New Zealand would argue we shouldn't have speeding laws at all, in case someone inadvertedly might fall in breach of them.

"Above all else, what the Minister's reply signals is that there is now no need whatsoever for the amendment being mooted by Chester Borrows. Police will not be mounting prosecutions against good parents who lightly smack their children. Chester means well, but his attempts to put into law the degrees of acceptable violence against children will only serve to instruct violent parents on how best to avoid prosecution.

"In particular, any attempt by Chester to legally distinguish between violence by open handed slaps and violence with an implement could render good parents more, and not less, vulnerable to the attentions of bureaucrats and police.

" If S59 is repealed, the sky will not fall in. As the Police Minister confirmed, if s59 was repealed, it is the police's own submission that they 'would continue to investigate all cases of suspected or reported assaults on children, as they obliged to do right now. In that sense there wouldn't be any great change of practice.'"


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