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S59 poll results gives mixed message - Greens

29 September 2008

S59 poll results gives mixed message - Greens

Today's Herald poll on attitudes to the Section 59 law change shows just how confused next year's referendum question is, Green Party Children's Issues Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

"While this survey shows that many of the people polled believe 'a smack should not be a criminal offence', the question fails to recognise that smacking has never been a criminal offence, and still isn't.

"Last year's amendment simply removed a defence of 'reasonable force for the purpose of correction' which allowed some parents to get away with assaulting their children. This then meant that police often didn't take prosecutions when they perceived the 'reasonable force' defence could be used.

"The new law, supported by 113 MPs from across Parliament, now provides babies and children with the same legal protection against assault as adults have," Ms Bradford says.

"No offence of smacking or spanking was created, and I believe the proponents of the referendum have deliberately confused the issue.

"I believe their real intentions are to change the law so that 'reasonable force' is defined, creating what would in effect be a 'whackers' charter', describing in law the ways in which parents would legally be able to assault their children.

"If such a law change was being proposed in relation to men beating their adult partners, there would be national outrage, and I find it sad that that so many people think it positive that children be brought up with violence.



"The second part of the 'Herald' poll is much more encouraging, showing that New Zealanders are actually very evenly split on whether they agree with the Section 59 law as passed by Parliament.

"This accords with my own perceptions over the last three years, that the country is evenly divided in this matter, but that more and more people are coming to realise it is actually better for all of us if children have a chance to grow up free from violence.

"Still, much more that needs to be done, including a public education campaign about what the law change actually means, more resources for groups supporting parents and families to bring up their children without violence, and more good parenting education," Ms Bradford says.


ENDS

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