Friday, 27 April 2007

27 April 2007 - Family Integrity #234

The following came from David Farrars blog ( 26 April:
Even though Sue Bradford has said she will not back it, John Key has written to all party leaders seeking support for his compromise amendment. That amendment will defuse all the controversy from the bill and it will probably then pass with 110 or more votes.

The Key letter is:
I am writing to seek your support for a proposed amendment to the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill currently before the house. As you may know, I met with Sue Bradford MP to discuss this amendment with her on 25 April, and she has indicated she will not support the amendment.
The amendment proposes removing the new subsections 59(2) and 59(3) and inserting a clause justifying the use of light smacking that is “minor and inconsequential”, while leaving in place the general prohibition on force for the purpose of correction in the purpose clause of the bill. A copy of the proposed amendment is attached.

This amendment will allow good parents to feel reassured that they will not be criminalised by the new legislation, rather than relying on Police procedure to avoid investigation and prosecution. The clause will also provide clear guidance to the Police that light smacking of a minor and inconsequential nature should not result in prosecution.

It is unfair to rely on the Police to exercise their discretion to make this legislation work, simply because we as a Parliament lack the courage to codify the law in the way we expect it to be enforced. The reality is that there will be widely differing interpretations of this law, and of any procedures and guidelines attached to it, by Police around the country.

We all agree that the purpose of this legislation is to reduce New Zealand’s terrible rate of harming children, but we all probably agree that we do not want to see good parents criminalised for engaging in actions no one considers criminal. I simply believe it is bad law for Parliament to pass a piece of legislation outlawing an activity absolutely, and then expect the Police not to prosecute minor breaches.
My proposed amendment achieves the outcome that I think we are all after, and I seek your support for this change to the bill.

The amendment John Key proposes, to replace the 59(2) and 59(3) is:
Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of a child is justified in lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties if the smacking used was minor and inconsequential, notwithstanding Section 3 of the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Act 2007.

This is interesting political sleight of hand. It is what Bradford has been doing all along.

Good on ya, Key! He wants to dump the parts of Bradford's Bill that will criminalise parents for correcting their children: subsections 59(2) and 59(3), which read: "(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)."

And he is going to replace them with the clause at the bottom that justifies "lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties" as long as the smack is "minor and inconsequential" and then he gives a nod to Section 3.

Now, Section 3 is in the version of Bradford's Bill that is currently before Parliament. It says, "3 Purpose. The purpose of this Act is to amend the principal Act to make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction." So the Act says it is meant to abolish the use of parental force for correction. But if subsections 59(2) and 59(3) get removed and replaced by Key's amendment, there will be noting actually written in the statute books that abolishes the use of parental force for correction, even though there is something in the Act which says that's why it's there!!

And Key's amendment doesn't ban the use of implements as Borrow's amendment does. Please note also that Bradford's Bill as it is does not ban the use of implements either.

This amendment by Key, if adopted, will have the effect of more closely maintaining the status quo. Bradford's bill as it is has the effect of widening the use of parental force with children quite a bit more than the present Section 59 obviously allows. That is, Bradford's Bill appears to extend the justifiable use of force with children beyond what the original Section 59 does, except that it criminalises correction. Key's amendment will leave Bradford's extensions to the use of force in place and also remove the criminalising of correction.


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

Our Home....Our Castle

if Section59 is repealed - or replaced...

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