What's the point of anti smacking laws in NZ?

Nikki - posted on 03/20/2011 ( 9 moms have responded )

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What is the point of these types of laws if juries can over turn them, even when the offender admits they broke the law!
http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times...

A JURY has set a new benchmark under the so-called "anti-smacking" legislation by acquitting a father even though he admitted tying his son to his wrist, shaving his hair off, and washing his mouth out with soap.

The lead juror in the child cruelty case said she was "embarrassed to be a New Zealander" because the couple on trial were "good decent parents trying to instil a sense of responsibility".

But former Green MP Sue Bradford, the law's architect, said she was ashamed people thought such actions were acceptable. To her they amounted to assault.

The father and his new wife were found not guilty after a trial on 15 charges alleging cruelty against two children from his previous marriage. The children were aged 10 and under at the time.

The couple's lawyer used Section 59 of the Crimes Act, the amendment championed by Bradford, as a defence.

The case tested the amendment and showed what a jury would allow in terms of "justified force" to prevent or minimise harm, or to stop the child engaging in "offensive or disruptive behaviour".

"It is probably the worst thing I have ever done to my child, but I grabbed my tie that I wear for church and I tied his wrist to my wrist beside my bed so he couldn't take off and go and kill himself," the father told the Sunday Star-Times. "Then he did manage to loosen it, so I did tie it around his neck for only about 30 seconds. I admitted to those things in court, but given the circumstances and what I was trying to achieve – trying to stop him killing himself – I was found not guilty."

He also gave his son a "number two" haircut to teach him a lesson after a couple of years of stealing from his parents.

He was found not guilty of the charges relating to those incidents, as well as incidents where he was accused of making his children have cold showers, and excessive time-outs. He said the charges were exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated, but admitted the tying, cutting the child's hair and washing his mouth out.

The jury accepted the three acts happened, but the majority decided they were OK.

Deanne Shilton, the lead juror in the case, contacted the Sunday Star-Times through a third party. She said she was "embarrassed to be a New Zealander" and felt awful for the couple for having to go through the case – particularly the heavily pregnant wife of the father, who was forced to climb several flights of stairs to court cells during any break.

Shilton said she contacted the couple after the case to say how embarrassed she felt. It was obvious to her from the start the couple should be acquitted. She said most, but not all, of the other jurors felt similarly. "Good decent parents trying to instil a sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity, as well as the action-consequence moral in their children have been put through a living hell for their efforts."

But Bradford said the incidents were abuse. "I'm not familiar with the details of the case but the sort of things you are talking about – to me they are all assaults against children. And I think it's really sad that a jury would think that those kind of activities are acceptable.

"Things like washing out the mouth with soap are not just a physical assault but a mental one, and if a policeman did those things to an adult, you would be really angry and upset. So many adults seem to accept that if it's a parent doing it to a child, or a person in authority doing it to a child, then that's OK.

"It does make me ashamed to be a Kiwi to think there are so many people out there who still accept all of this."

Family First director Bob McCoskrie said: "This family has been put through hell for almost two years, after being charged for typical parenting practices on unsubstantiated claims made by unreliable sources. And they have been completely and utterly acquitted by their peers in a prolonged court case."

SECTION 59 STATES:

(1) Every parent of a child, and every person in the place of a parent, 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

(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence (c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour (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).

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Jodi - posted on 03/21/2011

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I don't think the anti-smacking law is the same as abuse at all. Yes, it is in the same law, but it doesn't mean the same thing if you read the fine print. IMO, this SHOULD have been considered abuse (nothing to do with smacking), but I think there is more to this. I did Google, but found nothing but political propoganda. I am wondering if there is some political agenda with the information that is being released. It sounds like some political parties are against the laws, and are therefore looking for ways to negate them.

I just think there is more to this......give it a few days, and my bet is, there will be more to it.

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Nikki - posted on 03/21/2011

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I think it's more child abuse laws, but they smacking law is the same thing, I think.

Ez - posted on 03/20/2011

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That's what doesn't make sense to me. These things are emotionally abusive, not physically harmful. So I don't see how it would fall under any anti-smacking legislation anyway.

Jodi - posted on 03/20/2011

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I'm thinking there has to be more to it for these parent to get off. I can't imagine being on a jury and listening to this happening to a child and ruling not guilty. And this has nothing to do with my stance on smacking. These things aren't smacking.

Ez - posted on 03/20/2011

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I'm also confused. This guy tied his son up to stop him from killing himself, but there is no mention of him getting help. So was tying him up was going to be the go-to each time this little boy threatened suicide? And shaving his head as punishment? That's humiliating and just dumb.



The kid sounds like he's got some issues, and the father clearly has no idea how to handle him and is not reaching out for support or assistance. But I'm still confused as to how this made it to court. It sounds like this family needs some intevention from social services, not a friggin court case.



Edited to add: I agree with Jodi though too. It would seem unlikely that this is the first time the boy has been subject to emotional and physical abuse.Maybe the case against them is much more extensive than shown in the article.

Jodi - posted on 03/20/2011

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I fail to see how Section 59 is an anti-smacking law anyway, because it doesn't rule out that you can smack your kids in certain instances.

However, having said that, I can't for the life of me understand this father's reasoning. Even though we don't have anti-smacking laws in Australia, I would consider those things against the law here too, because they really are beyond what I would consider "reasonable force".

And if he admits to shaving his kid's head for stealing (still trying to wrap my head around the crime vs. consequences with that one), then I could only conclude that it isn't the only time he has treated him like that.

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I don't agree w/ anti-smacking laws cuz I don't think real abusers will care about the law and it may just scare good parents out of trying to discipline.

That being said.... I think what this guy did was definitely out of line. Maybe the kid wanted to kill himself cuz his dad is a jerk.... If you are truly scared for your child's life... tie them up if you must, but do it to take them to a mental health facility. You don't want to mess around w/ that crap w/out a professional.....

Sharon - posted on 03/20/2011

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I'm baffled.

what was the deal with tying up his kid to keep him from committing suicide? Why not truely tie him up and call the cops/mental health people?

A haircut was supposed to deter his kid from stealing?

thats retarded. but then anti smacking laws are just stupid to me anyway. and this one seems to be out there, lacking in definition.

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