A Christchurch father is fuming after he received a police warning for hitting a child after he flicked his son's ear in public as a reprimand.
Professional musician Jimmy Mason flicked the ear of his son, Seth, at the Bridge of Remembrance just before Christmas after the three-year-old disobeyed his instructions while riding his new bike.
The toddler took off down a ramp and was followed by his brother, Zach, two, who was also on a new bike. Seth made the tight corner but Zach did not, and injured his eye.
"Seth just wanted to go on riding. He didn't realise the seriousness of it with the youngest one slipping in and out of consciousness," Mason said.
"So I turned to Seth and flicked him on the ear and told him to shut up while we fixed up the young one," Mason said.
A nearby teacher took umbrage, an off-duty policewoman rang the incident in and in minutes later Mason was surrounded by six police officers.
"They were going to arrest me and were trying to ascertain whether it was safe for the kids to go home with me," he said.
"It was pretty bizarre to tell you the truth."
Mason said he took his sons biking every day and they needed to obey his instructions to the letter in order to stay safe.
"When I say 'stop' to the kids they have got to stop," he said. "I said to the cops that I need to impress upon him (Seth) what he did was wrong and I need to impress it on him straight away and asked them how they suggested I do it.
"They didn't know and I said to them, 'Well, you've just told me what I did was wrong so you must know what is right'."
In the end, Mason was not charged but he was told that a warning would go on his record for hitting his child.
"It needs to be on record that I disciplined him for something he deserved, not that I'm a child beater.
"There's an irony there that they can spray, Taser or shoot me but I can't flick my son in the ear to stop him getting run over at an intersection."
He was considering legal action to have the warning removed from his record.
He felt sorry for the police having to administer the amended child-discipline law which came into force in June last year.
Inspector Rick Jury said he could not discuss individual cases but the law gave the police some discretion.
"It says every parent is justified in using force if it's reasonable in the circumstances," he said. One of the specific clauses allowing some force was for the purposes of preventing or minimising harm, and the legislation allowed police to make a determination over whether it was "inconsequential" and not in the public interest to prosecute.
Family First national director Bob McCoskrie said cases like this showed the law was an ass.
"It just seems totally over the top," he said. "That's the problem with this law, it's lost the common-sense element. It's a feel-good law change but has done nothing to protect kids who are actually being abused."
A police spokeswoman said a review since the amendment found that between June and September last year police were called to three smacking incidents and 12 minor acts of physical discipline. The 15 cases were determined to be "inconsequential" and not worth prosecuting, although nine warnings were issued.