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Truth is Catching Up

For Immediate Publication

Truth is Catching Up

It appears Sue Bradford has admitted that her Bill to amend the Crimes Act to ban smacking is flawed and itself needs 'amendment'.

Since August last year when the Office of the Police Commissioner confirmed that repeal of Section 59 would make any smacking into a criminal assault, Bradford has claimed this has not been her intent. Yet her Explanatory Note in the Bill itself clearly confirms that it has always been her intent. She has also illogically claimed again and again that the Police will not enforce the law should her Bill pass and Section 59 be repealed.

The latest issue of Investigate Magazine has comments from several top New Zealand QCs confirming precisely what Family Integrity has been saying for months: that if Section 59 is repealed and parents are prohibited from using any force with their children, be it reasonable or unreasonable, even the most-often-mentioned alternative to corporal discipline, "time out", will almost certainly be classed as a criminal assault as well!

Commonsense would dictate that Ms Bradford's Bill be withdrawn. The dawning truth of its implications has shown it to be completely unworkable.

But it gets worse. Ms Bradford is starting to talk about amending the Bill, presumably to tighen up the definition of what constitutes "reasonable" force. She has until now consistently rubbished such ideas as they work against her objectives of criminalising any parental use of force at all with their own children. Family Integrity also opposes the idea of defining "reasonable" force, but for a much different reason: it is simply impossible to do.

Looking only at the Crimes Act, Sections 39, 42, 48, 52, 53, 56 and 60 all allow for "reasonable" force in scenarios such as riots and self defense and maintaining order and discipline on board a ship or aircraft. Sections 41, 45, 46 and 55 allow for the use of force, without the limiting word "reasonable", in cases such as suicide or defense of your home. The word "reasonable" has no meaning in law, and cannot be defined in law, without a context, without the judge or jury knowing all the relevant circumstances. And this is precisely what Section 59 calls for: if a parent is to be justified in using force with a his or her child, the force must conform to two limitations: it must be used by way of correction, and it must be reasonable "in the circumstances". In the life of any family there are an infinite variety of circumstances that play out over time. To try to define them all as either "reasonable" or "unreasonable" would require an entire library full of descriptions. The very idea is daft. Just like Bradford's original Bill to repeal Section 59 in the first place.

As Family Integrity has been saying all along, Section 59 of the Crimes Act is a brilliant piece of legislation that should not be tampered with.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity


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