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Swedish cases send warning to Kiwi families

19 JULY 2006

Swedish cases send warning to Kiwi families

The following actual Swedish cases will serve as examples of what happens to good parents when smacking and parental discipline is banned, as proposed by Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking Bill currently before Parliament.

Ruby Harrold-Claesson, a Swedish lawyer, who is in NZ is able to comment on these cases in more detail.

Section 59 protects good parents doing a great job!

1 - Teacher Case I
(NR B 247/84, Judgement DB 294 (District Court); B 245/84 Judgement nr DB 2029, Court of Appeal)

This was the first case that received media attention world-wide, and dates from 1984.

The facts of the case are as follows: A boy had placed his little brother on the back of his bicycle several times that day and ridden off down the street. The father had warned him about the danger of taking his little brother on the bicycle and cycling through the Saturday morning traffic with him. He also warned that the spokes could injure the small boy's foot. But the boy took no notice of his father. After a while, the boy returned home with his little brother who was crying because his foot had got caught in the spokes. The father confiscated the boy's bicycle and locked it away. He then took the boy into the house and gave him three smacks on his bottom with some twigs.

The father in Gällivare, in the north of Sweden, a teacher, was prosecuted for, and found guilty of assault of his 12-year-old son, because he had smacked his son.

The Court of Appeals admitted that the father had all reason to be angry at his son because the boy had openly disregarded and disobeyed his parents' orders NEVER to toe his little brother on his bicycle. However, the Court of Appeals maintained that, no matter what a child does, the law guarantees that he should never be smacked by his parents.

2 - The Hungarian Case
(Kristianstad District Court Case no. B 169/85 Verdict DB 247; District Administrative Court in Kristianstad Case no. Ö 291-84 & Ö 136-85)

A child had been fighting with the other children at school and had even bitten a teacher. Kristianstad District Court issued a suspended sentence against a Hungarian man for having smacked his seven-year-old son. The child was removed from their home and placed in social custody.

Psychiatric care was recommended both for the boy and the chastising father.

3 - The American Case
(Solna District Court B 340/85 verdict DB 372, District Administrative Court in Stockholm case no. Ö 2123-84)

Solna District Court sentenced an American residing in Sweden for maltreatment of his 15-year-old daughter and the girl was taken into social custody. The father had smacked her on her bottom with the palm of his hand one morning when she had locked herself in the bathroom and prevented the other members of the family from getting ready to leave home for their daily routines.

The girl was raped while at the institution. Her parents reported the matter to the police, but the matter was not investigated.

4 - The Yavari case
The Yavari case took place in 1988 and was for several weeks recurring front-page news in the evening newspaper Göteborgs Tidningen (GT) and the Christian newspaper DAGEN "The Day".

A simple question from the little four-year-old Yavari girl to her day-carer gave rise to a nightmare experience for the Yavari family. The little girl asked her day-carer if her son would get a smacking because he had done something pretty nasty. The day-carer, employed by the community, came to the conclusion that the Yavari children must have been accustomed to being beaten i.e. "maltreated in their home". She therefore made a report to her employer, and the employer in her turn made a formal report to the social authorities in Götene. All three children in the Yavari family were immediately taken into social custody and taken to hospital for examination. A series of doctor's certificates stated that the children showed no signs of bruises or beating.

The chairman of the social authorities refused to drop the case so the Yavaris' took their children and fled to England.

5 - The Sandviken Case
(Stockholm District Court  Verdict 2/12 1988; Svea Court of Appeals T 7/89)

On April 28, 1983, the president of the social district council decided to take a five-year-old child into public care, alleging that the father had ill-treated the boy. The boy had blisters and scars on his body, which looked like cigarette burns.

The boy was placed in hospital for examination. The blisters appeared even there! The father was accused of sneaking into the hospital and inflicting wounds on his son.

But the child had a skin disease, Atopia. The father suffered from the same disease, too. However, no one listened to the explanations given by the parents.

The social workers forced the parents to divorce, if the mother wanted to get her child back. They divorced.  After many medical examinations a specialist confirmed that the boy had a skin disease. The strain and stress of the custody and divorce cases induced a nervous breakdown in the father.

The father then sued the Swedish State, the Commune and the Health Board for the suffering he had been inflicted. The Courts granted him substantial damages but he had lost his health and family life forever.

6 - Teacher case II
(B 2637/92 Gothenburg District Court)

In September 1992 a teacher was convicted and fined for having maltreated his 12 year-old son. The parents - both intellectuals - had made certain rules as regards the tidying of the children's rooms and watching the Tele. The children were not allowed to watch TV all evening, and their TV-time was restricted to 2 hours per evening including playing computer games. It was a controversy about watching the Tele that triggered off the happenings on April 9.

The father told his son to turn off the Tele and empty the garbage. The boy refused to comply, so his father turned off the Tele, removed the boy bodily from the sofa, put the garbage bag in his hand and shoved him towards the door. The boy cried and the following day he went to the police and reported being beaten and kicked - that he had been maltreated by his father.

The boy informed his father that he had reported him to the police, and the father explained what the consequences could be. The boy rushed off to the police station to withdraw his statement but instead, that resulted in the father also being charged for "interfering in due process". Because of the psychic press on the family, the father did not appeal the case.

7 - The Refugee Mother Case
(B 4477/92 Gothenburg District Court)

On December 10, 1992 a 23 year old sole-parent and refugee, mother of two girls aged seven and six years, was sentenced to one year's imprisonment for having smacked her younger daughter. The young woman came as a refugee from Eritrea and her children came to Sweden in May 1992. She was not informed about the existence of the anti-smacking law.

The younger daughter was very stubborn and kept on picking fights with her older sister, who was having an attack of asthma. The mother intervened and, at the end of her tether, when the little girl would not stop fighting, she smacked her. The child bore marks on her body the following day when she was taken to the childcare centre to be vaccinated. The children, who knew no Swedish, were immediately taken into social custody and placed in an orphanage.

The mother was held in arrest for seven days. She was released on bail because she had refused to eat. However she was forbidden to make contact with her children for another six weeks. The children thought that the police had taken their mother and executed her, just like the Ethiopian police did with people during the war.

The case was appealed to The Court of Appeals for Western Sweden, where her sentence was mitigated - the verdict was: 6 months imprisonment.

8 - The Pre-school teacher case
(B 5050/92 Gothenburg District Court)

This is a case about a young Finnish mother who is accused of maltreating her 12 year old daughter who always kept on stealing and running away from home. The mother and daughter have been living in Sweden for 6 years and the child was emotionally disturbed because of alleged sexual abuse from her father (the parents divorced before mother and daughter moved to Sweden).

Once when the girl had run away from home she was taken care of by the police and the social authorities in Falköping. The girl then said that she was afraid to return home because her mother would be angry with her for having run off once again, that her mother would perhaps smack her.

The policeman then advised the girl of her rights according to the law, and that her mother was not allowed to even lay a finger on her - only talk to her. She was also encouraged to go to the police and report her mother if ever she should lay hands on her.

A few weeks later, the girl ran off once again and when she finally returned home late that night she was very provocative. Her mother became angry and slapped her face. The girl went to the police the next morning and filed charges against her mother.

The mother was found guilty of maltreatment and issued a suspended sentence on March 23, 1993.

9 - The Bosnian Refugee Case
(Landscrona District Court; Case no. B 163/96)

On June 12 1996, Landscrona District Court sentenced a Bosnian refugee mother to a suspended sentence and a heavy fine, for having hit her 15 year old daughter with a belt on the evening of October 9, 1995.

The mother had asked her daughter to go to the washroom in the basement of the apartment building they inhabited, to collect the family's laundry. A neighbour took the laundry basket up to the family and told the parents that there was no one in the washroom. The girl returned home a few hours later. She had gone to see a friend.

Her mother became angry with her because she had not done what she was told to do. After a short exchange the mother grabbed a belt hanging in the hall and hit the girl.

The social authorities removed the girl from the custody of her parents and placed her in a foster home. The address where the girl was placed was held secret from her parents. According to the information in the social investigation, the parents said that the girl could move back home to them, but that she would have to follow the rules set down by them and that they were going to smack her anytime she broke any rules.

At the interrogation the father asked the police what they as parents should do when their 15 year old was disobedient and misbehaving. The police advised the parents to consult the social workers!

10 - The parents in Stockholm
(Southern Roslags District Court; B 2549-98)

On December 10, 1998, the Southern Roslags District Court sentenced a mother and adopted father to two months imprisonment each for having smacked their six year old daughter between January 1, 1997 and November 27 1997. The parents were also sentenced to pay a fine and to pay damages to their daughter.

The parents disputed the charges but both admitted to smacking the little girl. The child was always given three warnings before she was smacked. They informed the Court that the reason why they used a shoe-horn instead of their hand, is because the hand represents love, not punishment.

Southern Roslags District Court wrote in its verdict, the following:
" The ill-treatment of V has taken place in her home during a long period of time and it has been planned and systematic. Even if the injuries have been relatively slight, the deeds must be judged as assault and battery, due to the conditions we have stated above. Assault and battery is a crime of the sort that is punished by prison. To this must be added the fact that the assault was perpetrated on a child by her mother and step-father for almost one whole year.

The reasoning of the Court concerning the damages awarded to the child is as follows:
"Because of the outcome of the case (the parents) will have pay damages to (the child). The assault that she has been exposed to has, upon an objective evaluation, caused her a serious violation of her personal integrity. The fact that (she) is so young that it makes it difficult to make a closer evaluation of her subjective experiences of what she has experienced, does not exclude her right to be rewarded damages for the violation.”

The social authorities investigated whether or not the child should be taken into care, but despite the conviction, the District administrative court decided that she should remain in her parents care!

11 - The Sunne Cases I & II Aggravated Harassment - Disturbance of Peace (2002)
Sunne District Court Case no. B 306-02

On October 16, 2002, Sunne District Court sentenced a father to suspended sentence and a fine for aggravated disturbance of the peace of his two daughters born in1989 and 1993.

The father admitted that he has slapped the children with an open hand on the backside, taken hold of their arms and ears and shouted and sworn at them. He emphasized that this has only occurred rarely

The Prosecutor pleaded that the father should not be prosecuted for specific acts, but instead be sentenced for gross violation of personal integrity.

The Court decision said “The father is guilty of violation of integrity and various types of assault. The particular acts themselves were of a less serious nature. However, this is a question of crime committed by a father against his children, who were living in his care and who were dependent upon him. Furthermore, the crimes have been committed on a number of occasions and over a long period of time. This leads the Court to the conclusion that each and every one of the deeds constitutes a part of a repeated violation of the children’s integrity.  Such a long and continuous form of cruelty to children as the father has subjected (XX and XX) (his daughters) to, is generally considered to lead to a seriously damaged self-image. The father must have been aware of this.”

12 - The Father of seven in Skåne "Gross Harassment" (2003)
Lunds District Court, Case no. B 4084-03, Verdict November 27, 2003

On October 16, 2003, the social council in the southern Sweden municipality Svalöv decided to take seven brothers and sisters into public care. Their father had been accused and prosecuted for "gross disturbance of the peace" of his children. He was arrested and confined pending trial.

The mother was not accused of any misdemeanours, yet five of the children were immediately placed in foster care.

The father was completely acquitted in the Criminal court. However, the social council proceeded in the care case and on December 18, 2003, three weeks after his acquittal, the Administrative County court ruled in favour of the social council and against the children and their parents.

On June 30, 2004 the parents applied to the social council to have the care order lifted. The mother, who was then pregnant with child no. eight has had to keep out of the way of the social workers for fear that they would take the baby at birth and she has had to avoid meeting her other children. The baby was born in September 2004. In order to protect her newborn the mother moved to a neighbouring municipality, yet on January 19, 2005 the social council that decided to take the couple's seven children into care decided to take the newborn baby into care.

The parents are still (2006) fighting court battles to reunite with their children.

13 - The American father in Borås 2003

A father, an American married to a Swede, is suing his employers and a colleague for seditious libel. The incident took place August 2003 when his daughter - and only child - was 6 yrs old. The colleague had spoken to the little girl, who was visiting her dad at his work-place, and asked her if her Daddy smacked her. The colleague then contacted BRIS (Children's Rights in the Society) and after that she discussed the matter with the employer. The following week the Personnel Manager made a formal complaint to the social services that my client abused his daughter.

The social services made an investigation, but they found nothing to report to the police and no reason to take the child into care.

The father has sued his employer and colleague for seditious libel, and is currently on appeal.


Bob McCoskrie JP
National Director 
P.O. Box 276-133, Manukau City, Auckland, New Zealand

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