Thursday, 21 June 2007

21 June 2007 - police - Smacking guidelines too restrictive

Smacking guidelines too restrictive - police
NZPA | Thursday, 21 June 2007

New guidelines for handling smacking complaints are too restrictive for police and will put pressure on those making decisions about complaints, the Police Association says.

The police guidelines drew some criticism after being issued on Tuesday, with critics concerned the new rules may be confusing to interpret.

A late amendment to new smacking laws added the proviso that police had the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent where the offence was considered to be inconsequential.

But association president Greg O'Connor said the guidelines defeated the purpose of the amendment about discretion.

"The guidelines mean we have been given less discretion than we thought we were going to be given," he told the New Zealand Herald.

There would be pressure on the senior sergeants who would have make decisions about individual cases.

There would also be pressure on frontline police dealing with people on both sides of the argument trying to prove their point.

Mr O'Connor said as with family violence cases, there would have to be zero tolerance with complaints and they would have to be reported. "And unfortunately, as a result of these guidelines, there is very little discretion. We think the guideliines could have been a little more broad."

A group opposing the smacking bill - Family First - yesterday said the guidelines confirmed its worst fears.

Director Bob McCoskrie said the guidelines made clear that while smacking may, in some circumstances, be considered inconsequential, a prosecution may be warranted if such actions were repetitive or frequent.

"This makes it quite clear that the discretion clause, trumpeted as the saviour to good parents, will only apply for a limited time and that in effect light smacking of an inconsequential nature will end up being prosecuted," Mr McCoskrie said.

The guidelines suggested it would take a while to find out how the laws would be interpreted in courts.

National Party leader John Key said the party was confident the police would deal with the law appropriately but that a National government would make changes if things were not working.

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