Monday, 30 April 2007

27 April 2007 - SPCS - Bradford Fails to Answer Questions on anti-smacking bill

Society For Promotion Of Community Standards Inc.
http://www.spcs.org.nz 27 April 2007

Bradford Fails to Answer Questions on anti-smacking bill

The Society is very concerned that Ms Bradford appears unable or unwilling to answer key questions put to her regarding her unpopular private members bill that is opposed by over 80% of New Zealanders.

In an Open Letter to her dated 23 March (copied below) the Society sought urgent clarification on four matters relating to her contradictory public pronouncements on her bill that seeks to remove the defence of "reasonable force" for "correction" (that can be used currently by a parent against a charge of assault on a child), from Section 59 of the Crimes Act (1961). The explanation given by the Green Party for her lack of response is that she is "very busy". Green Party worker, Ms Fran Tyler, has undertaken to give her the hurry up.

Tens of thousands of concerned parents who may face charges of criminal assault for lightly smacking their children for the purposes of corrective discipline, should Bradford's flawed anti-family bill pass into law, await answers to the important questions the Society has raised. Bradford says the aim of her bill is to make it illegal for any parent or person in the place of parent to use any "force" for the purpose of "correction". However, the bill does not specifically define what constitutes "force".

On the other hand, she has agreed to retain the defence of "reasonable force", but only for parents who she claims might face a charge of criminal assault for removing a child from harm's way etc. But she is adamant that this defence cannot be used if the action is undertaken with the intent or purpose of "correction": in whole or in "part". In effect she has made an ass of the law. Current law provides a clear justification for the use of "reasonable force" by parents for correction. Bradford is seeking to make that which is perfectly legal, illegal, and thereby she undermines the authority of good and loving parents.

OPEN LETTER TO MS SUE BRADFORD MP

RE: Sue Bradford's Private Members Bill dealing with Repeal of s. 59 that is opposed by 80% - 90% of New Zealanders polled.

23 March 2007

Dear Ms Fran Tyler

Please thank Ms Bradford for the answers she has supplied to the Society's questions (1-4) re her bill.

[See: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0703/S00301.htm]. However, having studied her answers, we are unable to comprehend how her position can be logically coherent within a legal framework. All our members feel the same way.

Please present to her a few short follow-up questions seeking urgent clarification. We would appreciate her prompt assistance.

Re Queston 1.

If as Ms Bradford stated on TV One's Agenda programme: "It's actually illegal now to smack your child" - why has she in responsed to Q 1 by stating: "Some smacking is therefore illegal under the current law." [Emphasis added]. We believe that it follows logically from the latter statement that some smacking is LEGAL; therefore the Agenda programme comment is inconsistent and misleading to say the least.

Questions: seeking clarification:

1.. How does Ms Bradford reconcile the apparent inconsistency between her two statements quoted and b.. What forms of smacking does she consider legal under the current Crimes Act? c.. Is it the smacking that is legal under current law or that which is illegal under current law that her bill intends to make illegal, or is it both forms? d.. Does Ms Bradford consider that it is unlawful under current law for a parent or person in the place of a parent to use "reasonable force" in the context of domestic discipline, for the purpose of correcting a child who exhibits extreme defiance and/or disobedience despite a number of clearly defined warnings to desist from wrong behaviour (see section 59 of Crimes Act)? e.. Is it the intention in her bill to prevent parents from correcting their children by using ANY actions that involve "reasonable force" in the circumstances? (vi) If so why, and why particularly has she sought to make illegal the use of ALL forms of force for correction carried out by the parent to achieve compliance from the disobediant/defiant child? Re. Questions 2-3

(vi) In the light of Ms Bradford's negative answers concerning the lawful use of "reasonable force" in self-defence (s. 48) and by ship's captains (s. 60), which we accept as correct; why did she state on Agenda "It's actually illegal now to smack your child" when she knew full well that this is untruthful (s. s. 59) and has now done a U-turn on by stating: "Some smacking is therefore illegal under the current law." (see above)? [Note the "reasonable force" defence provisions in s. 59, 60 and 48 serve the same purposes in protected those who use the force and those subject to the force].

Re Queston 4

(vi) Ms Bradford agreed to amendments to her bill which she now admits she did not feel were necessary, but agreed to in order to alleviate some doubts by some submitters - as she puts it "assertions by some submitters on the Bill that it [use of reasonable force for removing kids from harms waty etc.] may not be so justified". In the light of these concessions to submitters, why is she opposed to a clarification of s. 59 (the Borrows amendment) so that judges can point jury members to a clearer definition of "reasonable force" as it applies to actions taken by parents in corrective discipline on children?

Yours sincerely

David Lane

Secretary

Society for Promotion of Community Standards Inc.

P.O. Box 13-683 Johnsonville

http://www.spcs.org.nz

ENDS




How Caregivers will be Criminalised Under Sue Bradford's 'anti-smacking' Bill
Press Release 27 April 2007 http://www.spcs.org.nz


If Green MP Sue Bradford's 'anti-smacking bill' is passed into law, increasing numbers of childcare workers (e.g. creche and kindergarten workers) and those in the place of parents (e.g. grandparents, foster parents and guardians) will be charged with criminal assault by the police for lightly smacking children for "correction" purposes and will find themselves before the Courts defending actions which the vast majority of good parents consider perfectly justified as part of good domestic disciplinary procedures. As one leading New Zealand barrister, Mr Peter McKenzie QC, has reported in a comprehensive legal opinion on the effect of the Bill, some could even find themselves charged with criminal assault for applying "force" for removing troublesome and recalcitrant kids to "time-out" or "naughty-mat" zones because the discipline was done with the intention and for the purpose of "correction". The intention of Bradford's flawed bill, as clearly stated, is to make the use of all force illegal when used for "correction" by parents or those in the place of parents.

Sadly, the New Zealand public has too often seen the ugly face of badly applied law. Some cases have involved the domestic discipline of children (the case of the criminalising [for assault] of foster parents Don and Anne Eathorne through the actions of CYFS) and others involving public facilities where children are cared for by dedicated staff (The notorious Christchurch Creche case). An example of the latter, is the case involving a creche worker – Judith Anne Hende - who was wrongfully convicted and sentenced in a District Court for an assault on a child in her care and charged with wilfully and without lawful justification or excuse, stupefying a child (W) under her care. In 1995 the guilty verdict for stupefying was set aside by the Court of Appeal and the conviction was quashed. The Court directed that a judgment and verdict of acquittal be entered. Hende had been fined $1,000 by the District Court on the charge of stupefying a child.

More important to the debate over Bradford's anti-family bill is the fact that when the Court of Appeal dealt with Hende's conviction for assault, its ruling was that it be set aside and "the appellant be discharged without conviction".

The Queen v Judith Anne Hende (CA196/95)
Coram: Eichelbaum CJ, Hardie Boys J and Henry J

Hearing 24 July 1995 (at Auckland)

On 18 September 1995 Judge Eichelbaum CJ issued the Court of Appeal's Judgment that in part dealt with the assault charge against Ms Judith Anne Hende and he "discharged [her] without conviction". Hende, the appellant, was a licensee of a creche and had appealed against her conviction and sentence for assault and other matters, by a District Court. The assault charge was laid by the police under s. 194(a) of the Crimes Act. It was alleged that she assaulted a child (S) under the age of 14.

Eichelbaum CJ stated in his Judgment:

"The particulars alleged were 'hitting child when [the child was] going berserk' … The only prosecution evidence of the assault was in the depositions of two witnesses who were unavailable to give evidence at the trial." [Permission was granted by the Judge for the depositions to be read at the trial.]… "The second witness (the sister of the first) said she saw the appellant smack the child twice with her open hand on his bottom, two smacks one after the other on the same occasion. Cross-examined briefly, she agreed her memory about what exactly happened was a bit hazy, and that the smacks would not have hurt."

"Given, however, that as to the nature of the assault the Court had only the bare words quoted [by the witness], there was no justification for treating the incident as involving anything more than a pat on the bottom. Although technically an assault, it did not merit the stigma of a conviction and the fine [of $250] imposed"

"…the appellant has been through a seven day trial and two hearings before this Court, and the events are now three to four years old"

This tragic case highlights how police, even after presumably applying careful discretion (we doubt it in this case), will readily lay charges for a mere "technical assault" for incidents involving a mere "pat on the bottom", and allow such trivial matters to be taken to Court leading to the stigma of a conviction and a fine being imposed on an innocent child care worker. Police merely do their job when Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) and similar agencies – the so-called "experts" in child advocacy – fail to apply commonsense, are consumed by their own misguided zeal and ideological bias and are goaded into action by parents with their own agendas. The Police regularly hand the troublesome matter from the basket labelled "Too Hard" – to the Courts – relying on the legal "experts" to decide. Police are too busy chasing serial rapists, child molesters, bank heist professionals, and those committing aggravated robberies and sexual assaults, to be bothered too much by cases involving children being patted on the bottom.

It is staggering and hard to believe that such trivial and ridiculous cases as those involving some of the charges laid against Judith Hende, end up in Court even without Ms Bradford's bill becoming law! When it does become law – God forbid - the gloves are off! Agencies like CYFS will pursue all manner of trivial prosecutions against decent parents who seek to administer corrective discipline to their children for serious wrongdoing. They will use the police to hide behind. Bradford's absurd and na├»ve claim that police discretion is the only filter needed to ensure that parents will not be criminalised for trivial cases involving light smacking etc. deserves the cynical response "Yeah Right!".

It is noteworthy that on the charges of "ill-treatment" for which Hende was convicted by the District Court and sentenced to 200 hours community work, the appeal was allowed on a number of counts and a new trial was ordered by the Court of Appeal. A number of the key verdicts were therefore ordered to be set aside and a new trial was ordered.

The New Zealand public have overwhelmingly indicated via numerous opinion polls that they strongly oppose the repeal of section 59 and oppose Bradford's "anti-smacking bill" – one that even if passed, will make no difference to rectifying the serious problem of child abuse in this country. The SPCS wants the serious problem of child abuse properly investigated by the government and the real root causes addressed urgently.

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