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Mis-Informing the public on smacking

Mis-Informing the public on smacking

Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday maintained that New Zealanders are well informed about the debate in our country over section 59 of the Crimes Act, which gives parents a defence of reasonable force used by way of correction, provided the force used is reasonable under the circumstances.

Yet one of her own ministers, Child, Youth and Family Minister Ruth Dyson, considers that children are legally disadvantaged in comparison to adults so far as the use of force is concerned. That would be true if children held the same status as autonomous, independent individuals as adults do. But children are highly dependent and far from autonomous. That is why they cannot drive, drink, vote, enter into contracts, etc.

Dyson's arguments are ridiculous.

Family Integrity National Director Craig Smith says that the public has been badly misinformed and misled by the anti-smacking lobby. The Crimes Amendment Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act will pull virtually all authority out from under all parents. The Bill criminalizes the use of "force", not just physical discipline.

Smacking will become an assault, as the Police Commissioner has confirmed. But so will "time out" since it requires forcing a child to sit still.

"You simply cannot discipline without using force," says Mr Smith.

"And if you cannot back up the requirements and the prohibitions you place on your children with some kind of force, then you have no authority.

You are reduced to making suggestions which you hope will be followed." Yet Green MP Sue Bradford has said that she does not intend to ban smacking. What Ms Bradford intends is irrelevant. She knows full well that her Bill will outlaw physical discipline and reduce parental authority toward their own children to the same level as total strangers, for so she says in the Bill's explanatory note: "[Parents] will now be in the same position as everyone else so far as the use of force against children is concerned."

Bradford goes on to illogically claim that the Police will not prosecute for light smacks with an open hand, for they will use common sense and let such minor actions go, even though the Police themselves have said even light smacks will constitute acts of criminal assault, worth as much as two years in jail, if Section 59 is ever repealed.

"Since when has a law been made on the basis that it won't be enforced?" Mr Smith asks.

"This whole issue is far too important to get it wrong. Even Dr Kiro the Children's Commissioner conceded at the "Effective Discipline" Forum she and the Families Commission put on in Wellington last Thursday the 9th that repealing Section 59 would criminalize too many parents, that it could not be glossed over with rhetoric."


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