Friday, November 23, 2007

Police shrug off criticism of smacking case

This article from - 23 November 07
Of particular interest as it quotes a statement made here on the Section59 blog.

Police are dismissing claims that a controversial law change has made criminals of parents who lightly smack their children, after a man was convicted of assault for smacking his son.

The man, 33, who has permanent name suppression to protect the child's identity, was sentenced in the Masterton District Court this week to nine months' supervision, including parenting and anger-management courses.

The case is believed to be one of the first to come before the courts since a law change in May removed a parent's legal defence of using "reasonable force" for disciplining children.

The prosecutor in the case, Sergeant Garry Wilson, said police evidence included photos of bruises on the boy's shoulder and buttocks.

"It irritates me to hear about people being criminalised about light smacking. These were heavy smacks that had a traumatic effect on the child. And the family members were sufficiently concerned to contact police.

"The family have said that it wasn't the first time," he added.

The man came home one night from work and was told that his 8-year-old son had been in trouble at school.

The summary of facts said: "Becoming angry, the defendant has grabbed the victim's clothes by his shoulder and pulled him up on to the bed.

"He has flipped the victim over his knee and struck the victim three times with an open palm on the buttocks, before roughly sitting him back up."

The man, who pleaded guilty, told police that he had lost his temper and overreacted.

The boy's mother was so concerned that she took photos of her son's injuries and showed them to a relative, who contacted police.

Judge Anthony Walsh said the man might have had a legal defence in the past, but that no longer applied.

"One time, maybe, you could have got away with this, but you can't do that now ... You must understand that what you did amounted to an assault. Our law has been amended so that children are protected."

The decision to prosecute has been praised by child advocacy groups and Green MP Sue Bradford, who put forward the amendment that repealed section 59 from the Crimes Act.

The amendment was criticised for potentially turning parents who lightly smack their children into criminals, but political opposition was mostly dropped after guidelines were added so that an "inconsequential" use of force would not be prosecuted.

Mr Wilson said police had to use discretion in each case, "but when there's injuries, it has to be put before the court, it has to be more than inconsequential".

The court action has prompted internet calls for the amendment to be scrapped. Andy Moore at wrote that the father had gone "just a little bit over the top" but the case didn't warrant police action.

But Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, a vocal critic of the amendment, conceded that any case resulting in bruising should be investigated. But he would not say whether he thought the Masterton case was a reasonable use of force.

The convicted man has previously appeared before the courts, but Mr Wilson did not know why.

The mother had told a court victims adviser the boy's schoolwork had suffered since the incident.

The child's parents were already attending expensive anger-management, parenting and relationship counselling, but under court-ordered supervision the state will now pay.


Dan said...

So let me get this straight... you support people who bruise their children?

Andy said...

Hi Dan, thanks for your comment. I will copy here a comment that I made on


Andrew W puts it nicely:

“Simple lesson; It’s safer to ignore and neglect your kids than to try to keep them under control. You’re considered to be a better parent if your 10 year old is out at midnight, than if you use smacking as a form of discipline.”

The real issue is that parents who do smack their children now do so knowing that they are breaking the law. And their children know this. This new law turns children against their parents, we are seeing this already in several different cases.

It’s “the schools vs. the family”. “We care more about you little Johnny, so you tell us if mummy or daddy smacks you ok…” Little Johnny is *far too* young to understand the extreme consequences of his telling the teacher that “mummy smacked me”.

And look, one other thing - who’s to say that bruising indicates excessive force? Some people get bruised quite easily.

John Key - we are waiting for you to stand up and say that your party will honour the referendum when you become the Government in 2008.

Otherwise mate, there will be many, many annoyed people who will remember this at the election and will not vote for you.

I loathe the thought of a fourth term of Labour - however when the alternative is no better, then who cares really?

Dan said...

Firstly, your example is ridiculous. Have you never thought of other methods of discipline?

Secondly, many times the police have investigated claims of smacking, and left it alone, realising it's within the guidelines of normal parenting. This is the FIRST case where a parent has been convicted - THEY BRUISED THEIR CHILD. If they know their child bruises easily, they shouldn't be smacking and grabbing them so hard.

I really don't know why anyone wouldn't support this bill - it seems to be just a smokescreen to bitch about the Labour Govt - which has done more to help society this decade than National did in teh 1990s.

Andy said...

Dan, it's not my example, I was quoting a comment from Kiwiblog. There are many different methods of discipline, I completely agree.

The new law is bad because it means that many good parents are now criminals. I can't say for sure on this case because I don't know, none of us know all the circumstances. Certainly, bruising is not nice, however the Dad didn't mean for this to happen.

Tiffany, I never said the man was innocent, only that he went a bit over the top and that the police should not have prosectued. Who's to say that a bruise is necessarily child abuse? Just because we can see the damage, minor as it is, does that suddenly make it child abuse? I think not.

Good on you for not smacking your children - it's your choice, and that's the way it should be.

Real child abuse must be dealt with, however this new law will not serve to protect children from child abuse, rather I believe, it will increase frustration in parents, leading to increased cases of child abuse.


Simeon said...


I totally agree with you.

You have a well balanced argument.

Anonymous said...

The father who has just been prosecuted for "beating" his kid, yes I would defintely call it beating, and completely unacceptable.

How absolutely fantastic that this child beater is being prosecuted, what a fantastic message for his child to get, that what his father did to him is illegal and not tolerated by the society he lives in. If the new law continues to successfully prosecute parents and caregivers like him, and continues to protect our children, then what a great achievement for New Zealand.

Chuck Bird said...

Tiffany, why can you not understand that people are entitled to a view other than your own? Do you think you are more intelligent that 80% of the population including some pediatricians?

If your children are not unruly you have no reason to smack them. If you know as much about children as you think you do you would realize that all children are different.

Andy said...

Dead right Chuck, the American College of Pediatricians has just recently made a statement on smacking.

click here to read an article about it