Anti-smacking laws to punish Queensland parents who used "excessive force" to discipline their children could be too hard to prosecute, a lawyer has warned.
Moves by the Labor Party to toughen its stance on smacking were made at its state conference earlier this month, with suggestions the practice would eventually be outlawed.
But Brisbane lawyer Michael Bosscher, of criminal defence firm Ryan and Bosscher, said changes to the Criminal Code to make smacking illegal would be a legal minefield and would cause more problems thanHe cited the example of New Zealand, where anti-smacking legislation had sparked a public backlash and had prompted calls for a referendum.
"It is amazing to think Queensland is considering going down this path when New Zealand is trying to reverse its decision," Mr Bosscher said.
"Our laws already provide the option to prosecute parents who abuse their children.
The move comes after shocking cases of children being abandoned outside casinos and hotels in South East Queensland while their parents socialised hit the headlines earlier this year.
Mr Bosscher said said practical difficulties would arise when police, lawyers and the courts tried to prosecute parents who smacked.
"The real danger with new laws is how you interpret and enforce them and there is a risk of zealous authorities prosecuting parents for minor smacks that would traditionally be seen as just part of parenting.
"There's this nanny state mentality here where the state government is imposing draconian laws upon families, in theory to protect children. However if you start prosecuting parents for smacking children, the potential to destroy families and therefore hurt children, is enormous.
"Anti-smacking laws would be a controversial issue to prosecute in the courts because one police officers definition of excessively hard smacking could be radically different from another officers view.
Mr Bosscher said Queensland laws currently allowed parents to use "reasonable force" to discipline their children.
"A change to the Criminal Code is not needed. The law already has provision to prosecute parents- or any person- who inflicts serious, grievous or bodily harm on a child," he said.
"What they are really talking about is changing the law to brand parents as criminals. This is wrong and is not needed in Queensland."
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
"Don't Follow NZ" Warns Aus Lawyer
This article in from The Brisbane Times, emphasies my own.