INDEPENDENT NEWS

Bradford's Bill Now Sanctions Smacking

Published: Fri 9 Mar 2007 09:20 AM
Bradford's Bill Now Sanctions Smacking, Beatings and Abuse
Sue Bradford and those favouring repeal argue that the "reasonable force" provisions of Section 59 as it now stands are regularly used by parents and even juries to justify severe beatings and child abuse. It is, therefore, astounding that the rewrite of Section 59 does not remove those provisions at all but instead sets out four large areas wherein this "reasonable force" can be used: see Section (1)(a-d) below.
Current Section 59 59 Domestic Discipline Every parent of a child and...every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.
Proposed Rewrite of Section 59 59 Parental Control (1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of -- (a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or (b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or (c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or (d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting. (2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction. (3) Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).
Sections (1)(a) and (1)(b) are unnecessary as they are already covered in other sections of the Crimes Act (see Sections 39-60 of the Crimes Act 1961 at http://www.legislation.govt.nz/browse_vw.asp?content-set=pal_statutes). It is funny that Sections (1)(c) and (1)(d) are spelled out, for the Current Section 59 (see above) does not actually allow "reasonable force" to be used for these purposes, but only for the purpose of "correction". Obviously it has been assumed and understood by the justice system, police and society at large for years and years and years that "correction" has always included these things.
Clearly it has also been assumed and understood all these many years that "reasonable force" has included smacking as well as other things like time-out, grounding, removing privileges, etc.
So this rewrite of Section 59 is not even addressing the one issue Bradford always said was the problem: over-zealous use of "reasonable force". Since this Bill allows "reasonable force" in so many circumstances, it not only allows everything that was going on previously under this label of "reasonable force", including smacking, it also allows everything Bradford and co CLAIM was going on previously under this label, including severe beatings and abuse.
Bradford's Bill as being proposed right now actually allows smacking as well as all the violence and abuse she claims has been going on behind Section 59! How bizarre is that!
The only thing that has changed is that the motivation or purpose of "correction" is being thoroughly demonised and must not even be hinted at if even the smallest degree of force is used in the correction process. (Curiously enough, correction is the ONLY motivation or purpose allowed under the current Section 59.) But this new Section (2) not only rules "correction" out of bounds, it also requires that, in this area of law alone, we are to cut ourselves off from our 800 year heritage of accumulated legal wisdom and practise known as common law.
Something even more disturbing is Section (3). The effect of this appears to be that, should there ever arise a situation where it is not clear if the parents' actions were preventative or corrective (swatting a permanent marker from the hand drawing graffiti on the neighbour's fence accompanied by the words, "Don't do that!" instead of "Stop doing that!"), the corrective interpretation must prevail....meaning that when there is doubt, the parents must be found guilty of correcting their children, a case of criminal assault worth as much as two years in jail!
When will this insanity stop? When will the MPs do as 80% of us have made abundantly clear and dump this outrageously stupid Bill?
ENDS

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