Monday, 2 April 2007

2 April 2007 - nzherald - I'm not pro-smacking, it's just a flawed bill, says Chester Borrows

I'm not pro-smacking, it's just a flawed bill, says Chester Borrows
5:00AM Monday April 02, 2007

Sue Bradford's 'anti-smacking' bill has divided the nation. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Time is against him and the numbers are against him, but National MP Chester Borrows is still hopeful he can muster support for his amendments to Sue Bradford's "anti-smacking" bill.

On Wednesday, the first of Mr Borrows' amendments to the controversial legislation was defeated 63-58. When debate resumes MPs will consider Mr Borrows' next amendment, which seeks to permit a light smack with the hand, causing a trifling and transitory impact.

Ms Bradford's bill, if passed, will strike down a provision under section 59 of the Crimes Act which allows parents to defend themselves from an assault charge by saying they were using reasonable force while disciplining their child.

The debate could resume as early as tomorrow if, as expected, Labour adopts the Green MP's private member's bill as a Government measure. Mr Borrows is hoping two New Zealand First MPs who support the bill will be made to follow the lead of party leader Winston Peters, who opposes it, and that they could bring some Labour MPs along with them.

Mr Borrows' main hope is that Ms Bradford's bill remains her concern rather than the Government's. That would see debate on it resume in early May, during which time he hoped the Maori Party could be convinced to withdraw its support. "I believe in the process; the process is that if you make a strong argument that people may listen," Mr Borrows said.

"It may sound a little naive, but people may decide to find some conviction and decide that if they are going to be a parliamentarian that they weren't sent here to sit on their hands."

The debate has catapulted Mr Borrows, a first-term MP for Wanganui, into the national spotlight. Raised in Nelson, he spent 24 years in the police before becoming a lawyer.

"I have prosecuted people for beating their kids, I have considered section 59 and how that would apply to situations," Mr Borrows said.

"I have probably done more to protect children in this sort of area than anyone else who is in the Parliament, and I don't want to see it trivialised."

Mr Borrows served as a police officer in Auckland, Wellington and Nelson, before becoming a sole charge officer in the South Taranaki town of Patea.

A crucial point in his journey to Parliament was becoming a detective and investigating a series of child abuse cases.

"That experience has been life-changing, and made me want to make things better for victims of crime."

It has also made more hurtful the comments from some supporters of Ms Bradford's bill that by opposing it, Mr Borrows supports the hitting and abusing of children. "I think I've got quite a strong understanding of the nature of abuse, how it works within the heads of victims and how it works in the heads of offenders. I don't like that label, I don't think that's fair."

Mr Borrows, a 48-year-old father of three, also resents any assumption that he supports smacking.

"I have never advocated smacking. I don't want to be labelled the pro-smacker. What I am is the defender of parents and children. This whole debate is about whether or not parents who smack their kid should be liable for prosecution.

"It's not about whether smacking works, and it's not about whether good parents smack and bad parents don't. It's solely about whether parents who do smack their kid should be liable for prosecution."

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