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Parents as Criminals?

28 July 2005

Parents as Criminals?

The police will have more power than they have ever had before over ordinary New Zealanders if Sue Bradford's bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes act is successful.

If this section is repealed, as Mrs Bradford herself acknowledges, Parliament will be creating a massive new class of criminals - ordinary New Zealand parents. The only defence that has been offered for doing this is that the police will be able to use discretion when choosing which cases of physical discipline to prosecute and which to let slide.

What this means in practice is that any time the police, a wing of the current government, decide to prosecute there will be absolutely no available defence. What this means is very simple. Sue Bradford wants to replace juries with police officers. This is ironic, given her own experiences with the law. Has she now developed an unswerving faith in the infallibility of one officer over a jury of ones peers?

Also important to note is the way that Bradford has failed to understand the law. When defending her Bill in public speeches Bradford freely admits that she approves of other forms of physical disciple than smacking such as placing a child in confinement by placing in time out. What Bradford has not grasped is that it is illegal to do this to an adult because it is the use of force and a form of false imprisonment.

If this section is repealed, then any and all force that one cannot use against the man on the street will also be a crime in the home, including Bradford's own 'send them to their room' approach.

The numbers of criminals in this country will instantly grow tenfold, 80% of parents use smacking as a form of discipline and most of the remainder probably use alternative forms of force to restrain and simply move their children in order to discipline them. Bradford's rap sheet will become even longer than we all thought it was.

The Locke Foundation urges MPs to not support this Act. There are better ways to deal with child abuse and Parliament should pass laws that are intended to be enforced by the police against all who break them.

We should not be making criminals out of almost all parents just so that the police have the power to decide the bad ones out of the many. The law, more importantly the Crimes Act, should have nothing to do with the lives of everyday New Zealanders. It exists so that only the bad eggs fall into its domain. Parliament must keep it that way.


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