Saturday, 21 April 2007

20 April 2007 - Family Integrity - Questions for Key & Bradford

Press Release
For Immediate Distribution

It appears John Key of National and Bradford of the Greens are meeting on ANZAC Day, Wednesday 25 April, to talk about Bradford's Bill to usurp parental authority by making it illegal to use any kind of reasonable force to correct your own children.

Key appears to have swallowed Bradford's first and foremost piece of propaganda: that there is something wrong with Section 59.

Let us be clear about this: there is NOTHING wrong with Section 59. It is a brilliant piece of legislation: simple, clear, flexible, understood by each succeeding generation according to the social attitudes of the times, not like Bradford's proposed re-write of Section 59, confused by too many undefined words and concepts.

If prevention of child abuse is the objective, why do they not deal with the out of control bullying at schools which produces out of control parents? Why do they not deal with the other causes of abuse: household dysfunction due to temporary and transient relationships, welfare dependency, lack of education even after at least 10 years of compulsory school attendance, alcohol and drug abuse?

In every case wherein Section 59 was used to justify a parent's use of force with a child, the jury found, after examining carefully and repeatedly all the facts, that the parent had been motivated by a desire to correct the child (not to harm, beat, vent anger, humiliate, get back) and that the force used was reasonable in the circumstances.

Bradford to this day continues to call violence and abuse what juries of 12 of her peers determined to be "reasonable force." We now see, from the way Bradford and the Select Committee re-wrote the Bill, that it is not the "reasonable force" to which Bradford objects, for it is still in the Bill: she is out to ban parental authority to correct their own children.

Section 59 doesn't promote abuse and violence toward children: it is one of the laws AGAINST violence and abuse toward children because it only allows parents to use "reasonable force" and then only "by way of correction". When Bradford says Section 59 has let people off for using violence and severely beating children, she is using an extreme perversion of the normal understanding of the English language to
communicate her particular take on it, a take that is not shared by the vast majority of New Zealanders. This is a form of deceit, a way of giving a false impression on purpose. Most people, concerned parents in particular, call this for what it is -- telling lies -- and do not let their children get into such dishonest habits of speech.

I trust that Key at least, if not every reporter in the country, will demand that Bradford answer the following mysteries about her ridiculous anti-parent, anti-family Bill (both the present Section 59 and the Proposed Re-write are included below for reference):

Number One: What Is Meant by Correction?
A. Define "Correction" as it is used in this Bill.

B. Does the forbidden purpose of "Correction" include "discipline"?

C. Does it include "training"?

D. Does it include "chastisement"?

E. Does this bill mean that parents will be forbidden by law to use "reasonable force in the circumstances" to discipline, train or chastise their children?

F. Will Bradford's definition of "correction" obviously fall outside of what most parents would say is "incidental to good care and parenting"? If not does that mean she is trying to redefine what constitutes "good care and parenting"?

Number Two: What Is Meant By Reasonable Force?
A. Does the "reasonable force in the circumstances" of Sub-Sections 1a through 1d of the re-write mean parents can employ smacking to accomplish the purposes listed in those Sub-Sections in the same way as that phrase in the present Section 59 allows parents to employ smacking if it is used for the purpose of correction?

B. Does it mean parents can smack their children using implements as it does in the present Section 59?

C. If this re-written Section 59 does not allow Parents to use either smacking or implements, could you please explain what part of the statute actually forbids such things and how it forbids their use?

Number Three: What is Wrong with Correcting Children?
A. Please clarify: It appears that Bradford does not object to the "reasonable force in the circumstances" idea as it exists both in the present Section 59 as well as in her re-write of Section 59. Is it true that she objects to parents using reasonable force to correct their chidren? What is it about correcting children to which Bradford objects so strongly?

B. Please clarify: what is it about using "reasonable force" when it is used for the purpose of correction that makes it so bad in Bradford's thinking that it must be legislated against when this same "reasonable force" can be used in the multitude of other circumstances allowed in Sub-Sections 1a through 1d?

C. Please clarify: is it possible to define WHEN reasonable force used by parents is not legally forbidden in the following way: "As long as the force is used on the child BEFORE or DURING the child's act of harm or crime or disruption or offense the force is justifiable (as long as it is also reasonable in the circumstances). But if any force is used on the child AFTER the child's act of harm or crime or disruption or offense THEN it is more likely to be understood in terms of correction and is therefore illegal."

D. How does Bradford intend to re-educate all those parents who view "correction" (and "discipline" and "training" and "chastisement") of children as integral parts of "performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting"? How does Bradford intend for the law, the police, the judges and the juries to deal with such parents? Will Bradford write these intentions into the Bill itself as part of the statute or just hope that everyone involved will adopt her
as-yet unpublished intentions in these areas?

Number Four: Isn't "Reasonable Force" still "Reasonable Force"?
Bradford has consistently said that the "reasonable force for the purpose of correction" provision of the current Section 59 has allowed violent child abuse to take place where parents who severely beat their chidlren with horse whips, planks of wood and hosepipes, leaving welts, were let off. The re-write of Section 59 does not change the "reasonable force" provision in any way except to forbid it for the
purpose of correction and to specifically justify it for the multitude of purposes mentioned in Sub-Sections 1a thorugh 1d. How does this in any way discourage parents from severely beating their chidlren with horse whips, planks of wood and hosepipes, leaving welts, if they do it for the purposes of preventing harm, crime, offensive or disruptive behaviour? And how does this new wording discourage juries from
letting them off? The words justifying the use of force are precisely the same; the only difference is that "correction" is now forbidden, but a huge multitude of other actions are justified. As Simon Maud of the NZ Law Society said, this re-write of Section 59 appears to allow for more use of force against children, not less.

Number Five: So If There Is Reasonable Doubt, Parents Are Automatically Guilty?
A. Please clarify: Sub-Section 3 says Sub-Section 2 must prevail over Sub-Section 1. Does this mean that if it is unclear to a jury whether a parent's use of force was preventative or corrective that the corrective interpretation must prevail? Does this not mean that, contrary to normal understandings of justice wherein one is only
guilty when it is proven beyond reasonable doubt, juries will be required to return a guilty verdict when there is reasonable doubt?

B. Please clarify: If I come up unnoticed by my son as he is stealing apples from the neighbour's tree and slap his hand as he picks another one so that he doen't actually detach it, and confesses he was stealing without the neighbour's permission, this is justified by Sub-Section 1b?

C. If I then take him by the shoulders and forcefully march him to the neighbour's, with him protesting every inch of the way, to give back the apples he did pick, this is probably corrective but might be part of good parenting. But since there is a doubt about whether the force used to march him to the neighbours was good parenting or corrective, Sub-Section 3 kicks in and the force used is therefore not justified
and I'd be guilty of assault?

D. If, after marching him to the neighbour's and forcing him to give the apples back, I then force my son to apologise to the neighbour and offer to pay for the two he ate while picking the others. Since he didn't was not going to do either, I said he'd be banned from any TV, Video or any other electronic entertainment for two weeks unless he did. So he apologised and offered to pay and the neighbour asked for
$3.00 in reparation. When we got home, my son adamantly refused to fork over $3.00 saying the apology was more than enough. At this point I physically take $3.00 from his piggy bank in his room (and later give it to the neighbour) and also ban him from electronic entertainment for one week (not two) for not complying with what I
required of him n front of the neighbour. He never agreed with any of this. During the next week there were four instances where I had physically to wrest remotes and an ipod from him in order to enforce the ban I laid down against him. Since these actions are clearly to correct my son's actions and their downstream implications, the force I used would not be justified but in fact condemned by Sub-section 2,
is this not correct?

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 proposed re-write or replacement for Section 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 disuptive 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).

Craig Smith
National Director
Family Integrity
PO Box 9064
Palmerston North
New Zealand
Ph: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389

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