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Parliament should offer proper guidance on bill

John Key MP
National Party Leader

26 April 2007

Parliament should offer proper guidance on bill

National Party Leader John Key has released a letter he sent today to the other political parties in Parliament seeking support for his amendment to the anti-smacking bill that the Greens have declined to back.

"Parliament should offer proper guidance for the authorities on the anti-smacking bill," says Mr Key.

"I was deeply disappointed and frustrated at the unwillingness of the Greens to compromise in any way at the meeting with Sue Bradford yesterday.

"Good parents want to have confidence that they will not be criminalised by this legislation. I believe that most MPs do not want to criminalise good parents doing what is one of the hardest jobs.

"I will not give up and am writing to all other political parties in Parliament to seek their support for my amendment.

"National's compromise leaves the bill's purpose clause unaltered but provides guidance to the authorities so that light smacking of a 'minor and inconsequential' nature would not result in prosecution.

"This amendment will reassure good parents that they will not be criminalised by the new legislation - rather than relying on police procedure to avoid investigation and prosecution.

"It is unfair to rely on the police to exercise discretion to make the legislation work simply because Parliament lacks the courage to codify the law in the way we expect it to be enforced.

"I hope that other parties can consider this amendment in that light and support it. I am prepared to meet representatives of any party that wants to discuss this issue."

Attached: Letter to political parties on National's Section 59 amendment

26th April 2007

Leader: Fax:
Dear

I am writing to seek your support for a proposed amendment to the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill currently before the house. As you may know, I met with Sue Bradford MP to discuss this amendment with her on 25 April, and she has indicated she will not support the amendment.

The amendment proposes removing the new subsections 59(2) and 59(3) and inserting a clause justifying the use of light smacking that is “minor and inconsequential”, while leaving in place the general prohibition on force for the purpose of correction in the purpose clause of the bill. A copy of the proposed amendment is attached.

This amendment will allow good parents to feel reassured that they will not be criminalised by the new legislation, rather than relying on Police procedure to avoid investigation and prosecution. The clause will also provide clear guidance to the Police that light smacking of a minor and inconsequential nature should not result in prosecution.

It is unfair to rely on the Police to exercise their discretion to make this legislation work, simply because we as a Parliament lack the courage to codify the law in the way we expect it to be enforced. The reality is that there will be widely differing interpretations of this law, and of any procedures and guidelines attached to it, by Police around the country.

We all agree that the purpose of this legislation is to reduce New Zealand’s terrible rate of harming children, but we all probably agree that we do not want to see good parents criminalised for engaging in actions no one considers criminal. I simply believe it is bad law for Parliament to pass a piece of legislation outlawing an activity absolutely, and then expect the Police not to prosecute minor breaches.

My proposed amendment achieves the outcome that I think we are all after, and I seek your support for this change to the bill.

Yours sincerely


John Key MP Leader of the Opposition

******

Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill

Proposed Amendments
John Key, in Committee, to move the following amendments:
Clause 4

To omit subclause (2) and subclause (3) (lines 16 to 19 on page 2) and substitute the following new subclause:
“(2) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of a child is justified in lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties if the smacking used was minor and inconsequential, notwithstanding Section 3 of the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Act 2007.”

ENDS

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