13 April 2007
Who said changing section 59 won’t reduce child abuse?
Today the media reported that the Timaru mother acquitted, under Section 59, of using a riding crop on her son is back
“The reported evidence of serious assault on a teenager by a mother and step-father must cause all those who see no
relationship between section 59 and child abuse to pause and reflect,” said Murray Edridge, Chief Executive of Barnardos
“When the 2005 Timaru jury acquitted that mother they gave her and her partner a false message concerning physical
punishment of children,” he continued. “Now the consequence of that earlier vindication is all too apparent.”
Perhaps the latest incident would have been avoided if the community, through the court, had told the family that the
use of physical force in child discipline was unambiguously wrong. Furthermore, if the jury had earlier returned an
alternative decision the opportunity would then have been created to enable the court to impose a course of action that
could have helped the family.
“And that is the whole point of changing Section 59,” he concluded. “The current law vindicates the use of violence
against children and young people. We don’t allow violence in any area of our lives, so why do we persist with an
ambiguous law relating to children?”