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Media, Police Mislead Public on Smacking Prosecutions

Media, Police Mislead Public on Smacking Prosecutions

Family First NZ says that the media is misrepresenting the facts relating to smacking prosecutions and in the process are misleading the public as to the effect of the anti-smacking law. They are also concerned that the police appear to have made no effort to correct the wrong facts in the media.

“A number of media outlets and editorials have claimed that ‘police have prosecuted just eight parents for smacking children in the five years since the law came in and that seven of those parents had smacked their child in the head or face.’ This is completely wrong and misleading, and the police should be informing the media that they are misrepresenting the facts,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

According to the police reviews on the law, smacking is defined as ‘a slap with the open hand on the buttocks or legs that does not result in any form of injury’. The police claim that ‘"smacking" in itself is not an offence.’ A minor act of physical discipline is defined as ‘a slap with the open hand on any other part of the body (including the face) that does not result in any form of injury’. There have been 46 prosecutions for minor acts of physical discipline, and 8 for smacking.

“But what is significant is the prosecutions for smacking which the police and the politicians say will not be prosecuted.”

According to the police reviews:
1. One smacking event was prosecuted, but subsequently withdrawn when the primary witness declined to give evidence. 3rd review
2. One prosecution – no details provided by police. 6th review
3. Child was smacked on leg. 7th review
4. Child was smacked on the buttocks with no physical injury. 8th review
5. Child was smacked on the buttocks with no physical injury. 9th review
6. Father allegedly slapped his daughter on her lower leg, causing her to cry but leaving no injury - withdrawn due to insufficient evidence. 10th review
7. Child smacked around the upper thighs, leaving no injuries. 10th review
8. Father smacked his two sons on their legs in a public place, resulting in no injuries. 10th review

“Parents will be surprised by the types of actions which the police are taking to court – despite the guarantees of the Prime Minister that a smack is ok. Almost 600 kiwi families have had a police investigation for allegations of smacking or minor acts of physical discipline since the anti-smacking law was passed yet only 9% of them have been serious enough to warrant charges being laid,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“A law is obviously a ‘dog’s breakfast’ when there is such a high rate (90%-plus) of cases warranting no further action by the police. Yet for these ‘good parents’, the experience will have been hell.”

“The Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess claims that police responses have been consistent over time – yet the most recent police reports admit that there has been an upward trend in smacking cases, and ‘more widespread use of the legislation’ by the police. The other huge concern expressed by police is the big increase in false allegations of assault. This may come from neighbours or even the children themselves. Unfortunately, this confusing law has been used as a weapon against good parents – rather than targeting rotten parents who are abusing their kids.”

An independent poll of New Zealanders in March commissioned by Family First found that 3 out of 4 voters want the anti-smacking law amended, and two out of three respondents said they would flout the law and smack their child to correct their behaviour if they thought it was reasonable to do so.
ENDS

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