Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ron Law: Section 59 for Dummies

this from www.scoop.co.nz
Ron Law - Friday, 13 April 2007, 10:09 am

A Critique of Sue Bradford's So-called 'Anti-Smacking' Bill

Contrary to popular belief, Sue Bradford's so-called 'anti-smacking' Bill has already been defeated by the parliamentary process.

Having been the recipient of numerous "anti 'anti smacking'" or "anti 'pro beat your kids'" emails I thought it prudent, as a risk & policy analyst, to look at what all the fuss was about so I could make an informed decision myself.

My first port of call was to the Parliament website to look at the Bill being debated and in Hansard, the transcripts of the debates. What I discovered surprised me and is quite odds with what is being debated in public through the media. On Campbell Live on Monday 2nd April, for example, the nation was told that the Bill before parliament was simply about the repeal of section 59 from the Crimes Act; but is it?

Section 59, one of forty-five defenses in the Crimes Act, is about domestic discipline and states;

s59 Domestic discipline
(1) Every parent of a child and, subject to subsection (3) of this section, every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.

(2) The reasonableness of the force used is a question of fact.

(3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section justifies the use of force towards a child in contravention of section 139A of the Education Act 1989.

Bradford's short private member's Bill simply proposed the abolishing of the above section 59. The "Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill" passed its first reading in Parliament in 2005 and was referred to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee where over 1,700 submissions were received and in response the Bill was totally rewritten.

So what was changed in the Bill referred back to Parliament and now supposedly the subject of intense public debate? Well, actually, nearly everything; the beginning bit, the end bit, and most of the meat or tofu in the sandwich. The public appears to be debating the old version of the Bill that has already been rejected by parliament.

The Bill before parliament now will make it illegal for parents to smack (or use other reasonable force in the circumstances) in order to discipline or correct their child, but it will permit parents to smack their child for a variety of other reasons. So the Bill being debated is not anti-smacking at all... it doesn't even shift the goal posts, it just turns the goal posts around! It replaces one excuse for smacking with another....

Read the rest of the article here

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