Friday, May 04, 2007

John Key's Disastrous U-Turn

Dear Mr John Key

We are opposed to your party's disastrous U-turn over Sue Bradford's Bill. Even with the new amendment you helped initiate, once the bill is enacted into law; every parent or person in the place of a parent, who uses any form of "reasonable force" for the purpose of "correction", will be committing an "OFFENCE involving the use of force against a child" under s. 59 of Crimes Act (1961). It will be illegal to smack or apply ANY force to a child for the purpose of "correction". Under current law the use of such reasonable force it is NOT illegal. There is a justification for the use of such "reasonable force". S. 2 of the Crimes Act defines the use of that word "justification:

"Justified, in relation to any person, means not guilty of an offence and not liable to any civil proceeding".

1. Would you please explain how NZ parents will be able to correct their children for wilful and repeated disobedience, gross disrespect, willful destructive acts, gross dishonesty etc. using force that is "so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution" ... without them engaging in ILLEGAL and UNLAWFUL activity? 2. Would you please suggest how police will apply their "discretion" when deciding when force used for correction by loving parents is "inconsequential" as opposed to "consequential"? 3. Would you please suggest how police will apply the discretion criteria of "public good" when judging various ILLEGAL acts of 'violence' committed by parents on children, such as smacking for correction, forcing children to move to "time-out" zones as a matter of correcting bad behaviour, etc? 4. Why are you now supporting Bradford's anti-family bill when you once strongly opposed it?

You know that the Prime Minister and Sue Bradford have misrepresented the law - yes they have lied - when they have told the NZ public repeatedly that it is illegal UNDER CURRENT LAW to smack a child for correction, using reasonable force in the circumstances. Yes, the smack constitutes a technical "assault" but it is NOT the UNLAWFUL. use of force UNDER CURENT LAW. You have made no effort whatsoever, as far as we know to corect these lies. When will you?

We are shocked that you are now supporting a bill, that even with the latest amendment, still has as its stated purpose: "... abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction". (Note the word "force" remains unqualified. Therefore ALL force is rreferred to).

The choice of the word "abolishing" is clear. No use of any form of parental force for correction will be tolerated. It must be eradicated/abolished completely when used for correction. All force for correction is to be constituted as the illegal use of force under this flawed legislation you now support. Shame on you! What an incredible U-turn on your part! When we compare what you have stated in the past in opposing Bradfford's bill; with what you are now saying - supporting a bill that undermines parents authority and defines their use of reasonable force for discipline as illegal, we are stunned.

The claim by the National Party that the new amendment they have agreed to makes the bill now mertorious and worthy of support, because it now will give guidance to the police that they are to use "discretion" before laying charges against parents or those in the place of parents who apply force for correction, is misguided and will not fool thinking New Zealand parents. The police policy already allows for discretion in all case involving domestic violence. Charges will not be laid if there is insufficient evidence and it is not in the public interest to lay charges (two of a number of criteria laid out by the Solitor-General in existing instructions to police). While it is true that prior to this latest amendment being put up for the vote; the former Police Commissioner had claimed that police would HAVE TO to investigate ALL formal complaints of smacking under existing police guidelines, should the Bradford bill reported back from the select committee, pass into law; it was never claimed by police that all such complaints had to be prosecuted without the application of any discretion.

At the time The Minister of Police and the sponsor of the bill moved quickly to correct any perceptions that police would be unable to apply discretion before charges were laid based on complaints over smacking. On the basis of these assertions the bill's promoters claimed that no further amendments were needed to reassure the public.

The NZ public have always known that the police generally do not lay charges over trivial and inconsequential matters involving domestic matters. What has changed under Bradford's bill as it now stands, is that the police have to treat ALL formal complaints over the use of force for correction as ILLEGAL activities for which charges can potentially be laid. Under current law smacking or the use of any reasonable for correction is constituted LAWFUL.

Yours sincerely
Executive Committee & Members

Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.

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