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PHA supports repeal of ‘assault’ legislation

PHA supports repeal of ‘assault’ legislation

4 January 2006

The Public Health Association (PHA) is supporting the repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act. Section 59 provides a statutory defence which can be used by parents if they are prosecuted for assaulting a child. Green MP Sue Bradford is sponsoring a Private Member’s Bill to repeal this part of Crimes Act.

“Evidence in child development tells us that positive parenting techniques work best in helping children learn how to behave well as they grow up,” says PHA Director Dr Gay Keating. “Smacking and hitting are far less effective. So parents can find themselves hitting more often and harder when mild physical discipline no longer works.

“All physical punishment puts children at some risk – not only of their being injured by mistake or on purpose, but of becoming aggressive themselves, developing a poor relationship with their parents and becoming violent parents themselves. It is far better not to hit at all and the law should reflect this fact by not excusing any assault.

“All up, physical punishment is not an effective way to teach children, and has real dangers.”

She says that, as it stands, section 59 gives parents a defence if they are charged with child assault.

“There have been cases in which parents have seriously beaten a child, been taken to court, but have been let off by using section 59 as a defence.”

Dr Keating says that the removal of section 59 will protect New Zealand’s children from physical abuse, and send a strong message that violence should not be part of a child’s upbringing.


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