September 7, 2009
Prime Minister John Key today released Terms of Reference for a review of policies and procedures used by the New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family around the issue of smacking.
The review stems from Cabinet decisions a fortnight ago introducing safeguards to give parents comfort they will not be criminalised for lightly smacking their children.
“This review will look at the policies and procedures of the Police and CYF, including the referral process between the two agencies, to identify any changes needed to ensure good parents are treated as Parliament intended,” Mr Key says.
“The Government does not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack and the recent referendum reinforces that New Zealanders don’t either.
“I believe the law is working as intended but I can assure parents the National-led Government will continue to monitor the way the law is being implemented.”
The review will be conducted by the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development, Peter Hughes, the Commissioner of Police Howard Broad, and well known clinical psychologist Nigel Latta.
Mr Latta has significant experience working with young people and their families and Mr Key says his independent perspective will be useful.
“I am pleased that Nigel has agreed to take part in the review and I’m sure he will bring a direct and honest approach to the table,” Mr Key says.
“The reviewers will be able to make recommendations and consider any other matters they think will help to ensure that parents are treated as Parliament intended.”
The review team will report to the Prime Minister, Minister of Police and Minister of Social Development by December 1.
A citizens-initiated referendum was held between 31 July and 21 August 2009 on the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Eighty-seven per cent of those who voted, responded ‘no’ to this question.
The Government does not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack and does not believe the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 intends for this to occur. It wants safeguards to be put in place to give parents comfort that this will not happen. Cabinet [CAB Min (09) 30/23] has agreed to a number of measures to provide such safeguards. These include this review of New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures.
Terms of Reference
To review New Zealand Police and Child, Youth and Family policies and procedures, including the referral process between the two agencies, in order to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable in the interest of ensuring that:
1. good parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007
2. provisions of the law (both criminal and under the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act 1989) are applied to those who abuse children.
To consider any other matters which, in the reviewers’ opinion, will assist in ensuring that parents are treated as Parliament intended under the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.
To make recommendations concerning these matters.
Peter Hughes, Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development
Howard Broad, Commissioner of Police
Nigel Latta, Clinical Psychologist.
The reviewers will provide a report and make recommendations to the Prime Minister and Ministers of Police and Social Development and Employment by 1 December 2009.
Nigel Latta says in a press release,
I have been approached by the Prime Minister and asked if I would consider participating in a review of the Police and CYF processes around S 59 to see if the law is working as intended. I have agreed to participate in this review on the basis that it was understood that my role was independent and that I was able to speak freely about both the process of the review, and my opinions regarding its findings.
For the record, and this is something I have commented on publically in a number of contexts, my personal view on S59 is that I did not agree with the original law change. I also voted no in the referendum. I do not believe that a parent smacking their child, in the ‘common sense’ understanding of what that means, should be subject to criminal prosecution or investigation. It would be my view that the “anti-smacking debate” has become needlessly polarised from the very beginning into a position whereby you are either “for child abuse”, or you are “against child abuse”. This tendency of both sides of the debate to reduce a complex social/moral issue into rather simplistic extremes has resulted in our being plunged into an argument that has consumed a great deal of time, energy, and money, when ultimately everyone agrees with that we need to do more to protect children from abuse and neglect.
The terms of reference for this review are very clear. I see my role as first and foremost to look at the evidence and to ensure that the law does not result in good parents either being criminalised, or being needlessly subjected to investigations that are intrusive and/or traumatic. This is a responsibility I hold directly to the everyday mums and dads of New Zealand, and one that I take very seriously.
Because this issue has been dealt with to date in largely emotive and ideological rhetoric, I am interested solely in looking at the data, and in forming an opinion on the actual impact of the law change on that basis. For that reason I will not be meeting with, corresponding with, or entering into discussions with, any lobby groups from either end of the debate.
I will also not be engaging in any media interviews on this matter until after the review process has been completed. At that time the findings will be presented to the public in as transparent a manner as possible so that the Kiwi parents can make up their own minds based on the actual data.