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Copeland: Clarification over Sue Bradford's Bill

Monday, 5th March 2007

Clarification: Sue Bradford's Bill

United Future MP Gordon Copeland today said he wanted to clarify the context in which he sought an opinion from Peter McKenzie QC concerning the criminalisation, as an assault, of 'time-out' in Sue Bradford's Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill.

"The text of the Bill itself makes it clear that the defence of 'reasonable force for the purpose of correction' is not available for 'time-out' or similar," said Mr Copeland. "It therefore constitutes a criminal assault. Correction is what 'time-out' or a 'naughty mat' is all about."

"The report of the Law Commission dated 8 November 2006, signed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, from which the wording of the Bill is derived, makes that clear. For example, paragraph 7 states that the Bill 'does not contemplate the use of parental force against children for the purposes of correction'. Paragraph 10 states 'the use of force by parents against a child is only justified for specified non-disciplinary purposes. The essence of this option (i.e. the Bill) is to offer protection for 'good parenting, interventions, short of correction."

"Paragraph 12 specifically refers to 'time-out' in the following sentence:"In the event of a potentially ambiguous situation such as 'time-out' where there may be a mix of motives, subsection (3) seeks to ensure that parents cannot rely upon a corrective purpose for their actions."

"Accordingly, from day 1, it has been clear to me that Sue Bradford's Bill is not only 'anti-smacking' but also 'anti-correction' and 'anti-discipline'. However, because all of this is so absurd I realised that going public with that information could expose me to potential ridicule because the public would judge that only a Parliament of the insane would be intent on criminalising these activities. "

"It was for that reason that 'to be sure to be sure' as the Irish say, I sought the opinion of a Queen's Council. "

"Fortunately, perhaps because they themselves realised how absurd this Bill would become, the Law Commission suggested a reasoned alternative which has now become the Chester Borrows Amendment. That amendment is a good, commonsense, compromise and could be supported by all Members of Parliament."


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