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We Must Put Children’s Interests First

21 June 2007

We Must Put Children’s Interests First – Children’s Commissioner

Tomorrow the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill passes into law. Children’s Commissioner, Dr Cindy Kiro, sees this as a significant step that will be seen as historically important.

“This has been a difficult public and political debate and I thank those political leaders and community leaders who worked to ensure children have the same legal right to be free from violence as adults,” says Dr Kiro.

“NGOs and some politicians have lead the way with their unwavering support for a Bill that will see a number of benefits for children including encouraging positive parenting, protecting children better in courts, respecting children’s rights and changing attitudes.”

“But we still have a long way to go. There is frequent public reporting of appalling violence towards children. In the past week alone, we have seen an Auckland couple who beat a three-year-old child to death imprisoned for eight-and-a-half years, a Porirua mother charged with mistreating all three of her children after her five-year-old daughter was admitted to hospital with serious head injuries, and a Napier mother appeared in court on assault charges and admitted hitting her young children on the hands and arms with a hammer. ”

“The Bill’s opponents talk constantly about the criminalising good parents under the new law but we must put children’s interests first. The police have issued guidelines around how they will act with regard to prosecution under the new law. They have also stated that these guidelines will be applied in the context in which they operate every day and always have – that is that they will use common sense, apply discretion, assessment of the circumstances and determine what is reasonable in those circumstances. They are not going to imbark on a crusade of prosecuting parents for light smacking from this day on.”

“It is important that legislation is supported by public information on the new law and on parental education on the risks of physical punishment and effective parenting techniques.”

“I hope that the passing of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Bill into law and proposed Bills such as the Civics Education and Voting Age Bill signal a future in which legislation and policy development will be more child-focussed – particularly that around violence against children - and there will be more awareness of the importance of investing in our children and young people,” says Dr Kiro.

ENDS

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