Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Family Integrity # 146 -- Committee report is out

Family Integrity # 146 -- Committee report is out

20 November 2005

The Justice and Electoral Select Committee has released its report on Bradford's Bill to repeal Section 59 of the Crimes Act.

The report can be read at: http://tinyurl.com/yk49lh

The bulk of it is spin doctoring of the issues and not at all helpful. The guts of it is that they recommend replacing the present Section 59 which says:

(This is Section 59 as it stands today):

"Domestic discipline-
(1) 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."

The select committee wants to replace Section 59 with the following NEW, AMENDED 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).

There are a number of major problems with this:
1. The title "Domestic Discipline" is being repleaced by "Parental Control". Criminal law will no longer recognise that parents should discipline children but only control them and then only in certain ways approved by this law.

2. The first way a parent can be justified in using reasonable force, (1)(a), is already legally allowed in the Crimes Act by Sections 41 & 48.

3. The justification of stopping offensive or disruptive behaviour in (1)(c) does not specifiy if such behaviour needs to be offensive/disruptive to the parents, any others present, others not present but toward whom the behaviour was directed, bystanders, passersby, a police officer or the judge and jury when it comes to trial. Or perhaps it could be offensive or disruptive to the child, according to the parent.
4. Subsection (2) specifically says force is not to be justified, even by established common law precedent, for the purpose of correction. Here at last Bradford's intention from the start has been clearly stated: that parents should be prevented by law from correcting their own children.
5. Points (1)(a), (1)(b), & (1)(c) all justify force used to prevent something. No part of this new Section 59, including point (1)(d), appears to justify force used to make the child do something he should, to behave in a way the parents insist upon. Reasonable force can be used to stop some but not all behaviour the parent may want to stop, but nothing in this law appears to allow parents to use force to get the child to behave in a way the parent requires.

6. Since Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1), if it can be shown that force was used that could more properly be defined as "for the purpose of correction" than to prevent offensive or disruptive behaviour, the parent's use of force will not be justified and instead will of necessity be classed as assault.

Part of parenting is teaching right and proper behaviour and speech, teaching right from wrong, good from bad, wise from unwise. Will this law allow me to make my child apologise to anyone? To address elders by using "Mr" or "Mrs" or "Dr"? To conform to any standards that we parents are convinced they need to conform to in dress, grooming, speech and behaviour if it cannot be called offensive or disruptive? Can parents legally correct children's bad grammar or slang? Will we be able to enforce modest dress standards or rules of etiquette and manners? Will I be able to force my son to let the ladies go first? Will I be able to force my daughter to wear something longer than a miniskirt? What if my child refuses to ring me as I have insisted, to check if I approve of the video his friend is suggesting they watch? Can I stop him from visiting a friend at all if going over there is not obviously harmful, is not a criminal offense, is not offensive or disruptive but I simply think the other household is a bad influence?

This Bill has become totally unworkable. It shows that the purpose has nothing at all to do with violence or excessive force against children, which things are already illegal. The purpose of this bill all along has been to repeal parental authority over their own children, to minimise and compromise a parent's ability to correct, train or discipline his or her child to act, dress and speak to a certain standard imposed by the parent.

According to this Bill, children are not to be corrected if it involves the use of any kind of force, no matter how light or reasonable. Correction of children is to be illegal. This is absurd. It is insane. Write, email, ring your MPs and tell them this bill is crazy and has to go.

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity

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