Saturday, June 23, 2007

Father hits out at 'vague' new smacking guidelines

Waikato Times | Wednesday, 20 June 2007
article from

A Hamilton father of five who plans to continue smacking his children in spite of a controversial law banning physical punishment says the police prosecution guidelines are too vague.

Neil Pascoe, whose children range in age from two to 23, said it was "totally ridiculous" that parents who regularly smacked their children despite warnings faced prosecution and referral to Child, Youth and Family under the law, which comes into effect on Friday.

"How can they prove it?" he said. "They're not there at the time - they didn't see what went on . . . unless there is bruising - but if there is, or scarring, that then becomes abuse."

Under the guidelines sent to officers yesterday, even parents found to have used "minor, trivial or inconsequential" force and not charged will have their details recorded by police family violence co-ordinators.

The advice, from Police Commissioner Howard Broad, is a crucial element in the implementation of a law that abolishes the defence of reasonable force for parents who smack their children.

It was passed after a last-minute deal between Labour and National brought a clause making it clear that police were not expected to prosecute "inconsequential" smacking.

Though that is recognised in the guidelines, "inconsequential" is not defined, with officers told it will ultimately be up to the courts to determine in test cases.

The advice goes on to say that smacking not considered inconsequential by investigating officers may be prosecuted if it is "repetitive and frequent" and previous warnings have been ignored. Such incidents would constitute assault, and must be referred to child abuse investigators and CYF.

Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who led a massive campaign against the law change, said the guidelines confirmed many of the fears raised by opponents.

Green MP Sue Bradford, who introduced the bill, said the guidelines gave police "some context".

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