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Exaggeration by 'anti-smacking' bill supporters

For immediate release ....... Political comment

The Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.

P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville

Press Release

2 April 2007

Gross Exaggeration by 'anti-smacking' bill supporters

Sue Bradford's 'anti-smacking' bill supporters are guilty of gross exaggeration and deliberate distortion of the known facts in their frantic efforts to convince parents that 'nanny state' knows best when it comes to the discipline of their children. They argue that of the many parents who have been charged with assaulting their children, large numbers have wrongly escaped conviction by successfully appealing to s. 59 of the Crimes Act (1961). Such persons should not have been allowed to "get off the hook" by successfully appealing to the defence of "reasonable force" and juries in such cases got it wrong. They ignore the facts that s. 59 defences for assault are extremely rare (about 1.4 cases per year). The Prime Minister, Rt Hon. Helen Clark, has publicly stated that to allow parents facing charges of assault against their child to use a s.59 defense, including cases where juries have acquitted the accused, is "silly" and "ridiculous". Over 80% on New Zealanders, based on consistent poll results, disagree with Helen Clark's position. They do not want s. 59 repealed and they oppose Bradford's flawed bill.

Examples of gross distortion of the facts include the case of a 41-year old Hawkes Bay man, who was acquitted in a jury trial in the Napier District Court in 2001. Cabinet Minister, Hon. Mark Burton, misrepresented this case in his recent speech to parliament supporting Bradford's bill by referring to a man [not named] who was charged with having assaulted a child with a "plank of wood" and got off under a s. 59 defence. This is such a high profile case that anyone who has been following the s. 59 debate would have known that he was referring to the Hawkes Bay man whose 8-year son's bruised bottom was pictured in the Hawkes Bay Herald (now called Hawkes Bay Today). Many of Bradford's supporters have incorrectly referred to the use of a "4 by 2" by the Hawkes Bay man.

The SPCS contacted Mr Burton's office and pointed out to his staff that the Minister, like many of Bradford's bill supporters, has again, not told the truth. Prime Minister, Helen Clark, and her Deputy, the Hon, Michael Cullen, have both incorrectly referred to this case as involving a plank of wood, as have the Green Party and Sue Bradford.

Actually, the man used a small piece of wood, the same dimensions as a child's ruler (dimensions recorded in the Hawkes Bay Herald reportt) NOT a "plank of wood". Neither of the Dominion Post reports (22/02/01 and 21/12/01) refer to a "plank of wood" or a "4 by 2" wooden plank of wood.

The father disciplined the 8-year old boy by smacking him on his clothed bottom, as punishment for stealing $40 off an adult friend of his, and lying about it (the boy denied stealing the money). The boy had been given a number of warnings about stealing and lying by his father, and knew what the consequences would be for his wrongdoing. The father desisted from his smacks when the boy started to cry.

The father had attended a few parenting courses in the Hawkes Bay over the years prior to the incident and had genuinely sought help in the upbringing of this boy who proved quite unruly after being transferred to his care, in the course of an ongoing custody battle for the boy involving his ex-female partner.

Parent-Line, a well-respected child advocacy agency, had advised him at one of these courses that corporal punishment was OK to use when appropriate. He had tried all methods other than corporal punishment to bring to an end the boy's stealing and wilful lying, before the incident of 'assault' for which he was charged by the police. All other methods had been to no avail.

In court he was charged with assault under s. 194(a) of the Crimes Act (1961) - :assault against a child under 14 years of age". He was acquitted by a jury of his peers after his lawyer Tony Welsh, was able to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, the true facts he set before the jury. The abrasions over parts of the boy¡¯s buttocks and back had been caused by an accident he had had some days earlier while roller-skating. He had fallen off his skates onto a hard abrasive surface while being dragged on his skates by other children.

It was argued that the distinctive grazing and 'pot marks' revealed in photographs shown to the jury could not have been created by the actions of the father in smacking his boy with a tiny piece of wood. The boy confirmed the cause of the injuries (grazes etc.) as the accident.

The doctor conceded that injuries from the accident would have left the boy's buttocks very vulnerable to further bruising should he have had further force applied to the sensitive areas some days after the accident. The father candidly admitted in court that he had forgotten about the earlier accident and certainly did not appreciate that his son's buttocks would have been so vulnerable. As the boy had been shunted from one parent the other in the course of the custody battle, it appears that the father may not have been privy to all the facts concerning his son's prior injury before the smacking incident.

The father was acquitted by the jury who were quick recognise that the attempt to link the injuries with the level of force used in discipline, as put forward by the prosecution, could not possibly be established without reasonable doubt; and that other events (surrounding the accident) could be established beyond reasonable doubt, to have been caused the injuries.

The prosecution case fell apart based on the facts, not on the basis of a s. 59 defence. Furthermore, the prosecution failed to establish that there was any intention on the part of the father to deliberately cause injury to his son. Those who knew him the father recognised that he is a very mild-mannered man.

Mr Mark Burton has not told the truth in parliament. However, the continuing misrepresentation of this case serves the interests of Sue Bradford's supporters, to ram home this bill against the wishes of over 80% of New Zealanders.

The Green Party, while admitting to the SPCS that the implement used was not a "plank of wood" or a "4 by 2" have continued to use the distorted shock value of this case to push their flawed bill. They regularly refer to the man using a piece of timber or a hunk of wood to "thrash" and "assault" his boy. What utter piffle! The Prime Minister should be ashamed that she and her Ministers have been telling so many lies about this case.


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