Friday, March 16, 2007

The Infamous Labour Press Release

by Labour MP Russell Fairbrother

"...It has always been a crime to smack a child, any child.   It's the crime of assault.   For over 110 years, smacking a child could make a parent liable to a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years, and sometimes more.

For more than a century, sending a child to its bedroom is the crime of Kidnapping.  It makes the parent liable to a prison term of 14 years; as does the mere act of holding the child against its wishes to do such necessary tasks as dressing.  Most in Parliament want to change this.

That parents are never charged is because many criminal offences are committed daily by both law abiding and not so law abiding people.  Generally, the police only investigate when they receive a complaint and complaints arise when something seems to offend someone else's sense of appropriate community behaviour.

Having received a complaint, the police then decide whether they should allocate valuable resources to an investigation.  This involves an initial assessment as to whether the complaint involves behaviour seriously breaching community standards.

Once investigated, the Police decide whether the circumstances are such that the matter should go before a Court.    If the police conclude the behaviour is serious enough to warrant a prosecution, they bring the matter to the Court.

If it gets to Court, Judge or a Jury then decide whether the evidence offered by the police is sufficient to warrant a conviction being entered.

The proposals to change the law have no impact on the above stages.   The proposed changes do not "criminalise" parents who smack, because smacking a child has always been the crime of assault.

It is only when a Court decides the evidence offered by the police is sufficient to warrant a conviction being entered does the Court consider the defence made available by s59 of the Crimes Act.  If it feels s59 may apply then, despite the smacking allegation being sufficiently serious to get past all the earlier hurdles, the Court must find the person charged Not Guilty.

Section 59 goes back beyond the 1890s.   The proposals to change s59 bring it up to date.   These proposals allow force - "smacking" - if it is to stop harm to the child or another, stop the child doing something criminal, stop offensive or disruptive behaviour, or the need to smack is part of the normal daily tasks of good parenting.

No decent parent or normal Kiwi, can object to that.    No one will be criminalized by the changes to s59.   These changes reinforce the good parenting of 99% of Kiwi households..."

A quick response to this press release.  How the heck can Fairbrother say "No one will be criminalised by the changes to s59?"  For starters, he spells criminalised with a "z", which is wrong, but the biggest issue is that he does not know that no one will be criminalised.  Rather, on the contrary, if section 59 is repealed, many many parents will be disciplining their children on the wrong side of the law.  And plenty of good parents will be criminalised.

Stammering out his point of view, Fairbrother says that all smacking is assult, and is already illegal.  Firstly, this means that my parents are criminals.  Secondy, if it is assult, why bother repealing Section 59 ?

The whole thing is just beyond me.  This is surely the definition of idiocy.


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