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"Rasonable force" and disciplining children

18 April 2005

The Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society has recently reviewed the issue of whether parents should continue to be permitted to use the legal defence of "reasonable force" if they have been charged with assault as a result of physically disciplining their child.

It is the Family Law Section’s view that section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961, which provides this defence, should be repealed, and, as the body that represents family lawyers in New Zealand, the Section has indicated to the Government its wish to be involved in discussions about new legislation.

The issue is once again in the headlines following reports of a case in the New Plymouth District Court. His Honour Judge Bidois sentenced a parent who smacked his son so hard, after the boy soiled his pants, that he was described as being "extensively" bruised.

Simon Maude, the Family Law Section Chair, said: "The Section believes that careful consideration needs to be given to the development of law that does not sanction the use of violence by parents in the correction of their children. It is the question of what constitutes violence that requires particular examination in the rewriting of this legislation. Given their inability to protect themselves, children are entitled to expect the law to protect them. The courts, parents and children need law that is clear and descriptive as to what is permissible and what is not, in order to provide that protection."


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