South Island newspapers “get it”: Jimmy Mason and the Child Discipline Law

May 22, 2009

Two editorials appeared in South Island newspapers yesterday which indicate that the mainstream media understand the real issues behind the Jimmy Mason “face-punching” case, and its connection to the referendum.

The Timaru Herald said,

Mason became the poster boy for opponents to the amendment of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which outlawed the use of “reasonable force” by parents, after he was charged with assault by police. His case was taken up by Family First, who believed it was a test case for police trying to deal with the impact of the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation. Mason was a victim of a silly law, according to the lobby group that believes it is okay to discipline children by hitting them…

The police did the right thing by bringing the case. Members of a civilised society do not teach their children road traffic rules by flicking their ears and punching them in the face. They teach them by leading by example, by patiently explaining to them, by warning them and by coaching them. When all else fails there is a range of remedies open to them. Beating them is not one of them.

And the Southland Times concurs:

The Christchurch musician was shaping up for a while there as a martyrish figure for the smackers’ rights brigade who had been warning so darkly that the change to Section 59 of the Crimes Act would lead to a parade of parents being criminalised for lightly smacking their children.

Have you noticed? That hasn’t happened. Police report that the impact of the law change, which has applied since June 2007, has been minimal…

The law change supported, after compromises, by both Labour and National did reduce so-called parental rights, but only to the extent an act of violence that would be flat-out illegal had Mason done it to your child or mine is no less illegal because it was inflicted on his own.

On most levels, the law change has not made much of a difference. We had been getting just a few cases where parents who beat their children with whips and pieces of wood were invoking parental discipline rights and getting acquitted. Now they won’t.

We look forward to these publications’ colleagues further north joining in their judgement that the current law is working well.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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