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Community acts to protect children

14 January 2008

Community acts to protect children

Green MP Sue Bradford is pleased to see a heightened awareness of violence against children in the community.

Ms Bradford was commenting on reports of a case in Christchurch, where a father was given a warning when a teacher and an off-duty police officer contacted the police after witnessing an incident involving the man's three-year-old son.

"It's pleasing to see the Police use their discretion in applying the law as intended by Parliament," Ms Bradford says.

"I'd recommend people avoid rushing to judgment. We've only heard one side of the story. The incident did cause at least two bystanders to contact the police - perhaps it involved more than the "flick on the ear" being reported. A flick on the ear can easily become a cuff around the head. Hitting a child around their ears can have serious ramifications for their hearing.

"Furthermore, if there is cause to believe that a child is being assaulted or abused, I'd rather the police were contacted, and used their training, experience and discretion to find out the truth, regardless of the potential for embarrassment.

"In the wake of some of New Zealand's most shameful child abuse cases, there is often much soul searching and questions asked of family, friends and neighbours as to why they didn't report concerns to the authorities. This law is in place to protect children, which takes priority over inconveniencing adults.

"As the recent police review shows, there has not been a flood of prosecutions arising from the law change. Of the 15 cases the police attended since the amendment has been in place, all 15 have been determined to be inconsequential and not in the public interest to prosecute, while nine received a warning, as Mr Mason did.

"As in all cases, the police weigh whether it is in the public interest to bring matters before the courts - and among other things, consider the sufficiency of reliable evidence, the mitigating or aggravating circumstances, the public interest served by prosecution, the alternatives available, and the amount of force used. This is exactly the same procedure they use in every single incident they attend.

"What Mr Mason seems to be ignoring is that the Police could still have been called, could still have arrived and could still have charged or warned him long before the amendment to section 59.

"If police felt it was justified and in the interests of the public good to prosecute Mr Mason, the only difference the law change would make is removing the arcane defence excusing him on the basis of parental rights.


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