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Smacking Decision only a Victory for Common Sense?

Is Smacking Decision only a Victory for Common Sense?

Thursday 20 Dec 2001 Stephen Franks Press Releases -- Justice, Law & Order

ACT Justice Spokesman Stephen Franks today praised the common sense of New Zealanders revealed in a survey, which has led the Government to halt plans to make it illegal for parents to smack their children.

"I'm pleased that on this occasion at least the Government will not back its usual mates - the coterie of `we-know-best' experts who despise the values of the rest of us. But we should not relax. This may just be a strategic delay, to plan with EPOCH a new strategy waiting until the unequivocal survey result has become a dim memory.

"National and Labour are both talking about `reform', and a `middle path'. Neither has said why existing law does not fit the clear standards New Zealanders want. Those plotting this change have been talking about a `conscience vote' to try to separate their parties from responsibility for overriding public opinion.

"I have been warning for months that a simple repeal of section 59 of the Crimes Act (the section that protects parents who smack their children from assault charges) would be hugely problematic. Our underlying assault law is otherwise very strict and gives no room to respect the actions of caring parents. For example, merely physically compelling an unwilling child to spend time in his bedroom for `time out' would be assault, and possibly several other offences. If the law does not distinguish children from adults confiscating porn from your teenager could be theft.

"I am against any law that does not mean what it says. The rules we have clearly ban brutality. But without section 59 the law would be an intolerable ass to the Police and other agencies forced to uphold it. When the law-abiding parents, who look after their families, become contemptuous of the law it loses vital force for everyone. Extending the law to fit some goofy theory against caring and decent parents will just mean a whole new lot of law won't be enforced. Then those on the bottom of our society pay the worst price, especially the kids when the law scares only the law-abiding. The children in the worst families are the first to suffer.

The Lillybings are much more likely to be a consequence of our indulgence in sickly cultural sensitivity, in losing confidence in our own core values than a result of any alleged approval or tolerance of harsh punishment for children. Law that does not mean what it says deprives our agencies of moral authority to intervene when they should. A lack of resolve or resources is unavoidable when the law is mis-used to tackle more than it can do. Law must ensure the vicious abusers are brought to justice. Bogging the law down in chasing parents who are not vicious child beaters is worse than useless. The Government and the National party should tell us now that threatening ordinary parents is right off the agenda," Stephen Franks said.

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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