Posts Tagged Caritas

Caritas backs a YES vote

July 31, 2009

Catholic aid agency Caritas Aotearoa NZ is backing a “Yes” vote in the upcoming smacking referendum, but acknowledges people could, in good conscience, vote either way.

A citizens initiated referendum on the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” runs from July 31 to August 21. The result is not binding.

The referendum came about after a 390,000-signature petition last year.

The Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 allows reasonable force to be used for limited reasons, but not for correction. The act removed a wide-ranging defence of reasonable force.

A parliamentary compromise in 2007 saw police given discretion not to prosecute where the force used is inconsequential.

Caritas believes the law is therefore a good balance between child protection and the rights of families to make decisions for themselves without undue government interference, often described as subsidiarity.

This is in line with Catholic social teaching and prevents unnecessary prosecutions, Caritas said in statement.

The bishops’ conference also sought a balanced solution in their 2007 statement “Children are Precious Gifts”.

Because the referendum is seen politically as a vote of support for or opposition to the current law, Caritas recommends a “Yes” vote.

Director Mike Smith said the referendum question will not give a clear answer about child discipline because a person could support the 2007 compromise while voting either way.

Thus the “ambiguous” question means “many New Zealanders who support efforts to reduce violence against children may, in good conscience, still feel obliged to vote ‘No'”.

Caritas called for more parental education and believes referendum funding could have been better used this way.

A police activity review showed that there were no prosecutions brought for child assault which involved smacking between October and April.

Out of 279 “child assault events” attended, 39 involved minor acts of physical discipline and eight involved smacking. Police prosecuted four of the former and none of the latter.

Child discipline referendum will not give clarity

July 17, 2009

Press Release: Caritas Aotearoa

Caritas says child discipline referendum will not provide clarity.

Catholic social justice agency Caritas says the upcoming referendum on child discipline will not provide clarity on the issue. “Funding for the referendum could have been better used on family education,” says Director Mike Smith.

Caritas supports the 2007 amendment that was eventually made to Section 59 of the Crimes Act, and wishes to see the legal status quo maintained, regardless of the referendum outcome.

The debate leading up to the law change was always about balancing child protection and family subsidiarity – the ability of families to make decisions for themselves without undue government interference.

“Caritas submitted in 2006 that Catholic social teaching required that both be taken into account. In our opinion, that meant giving greater protection for children, and also defining the threshold for prosecution,” says Mr Smith.

“The final wording of the amendment regarding police discretion not to prosecute for ‘inconsequential’ acts met our concerns. It was also in line with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference 2007 statement on the issue: Children are precious gifts, which also sought a solution between polarised extremes of the debate at that time.”

Mr Smith says the upcoming referendum will not provide clarity on the question of child discipline, because it is possible to support the 2007 amendment while voting either Yes or No to the referendum question: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

However, Caritas recognises that in the political context of the referendum, a ‘Yes’ vote is seen to be a vote for the status quo, while a ‘No’ vote is seen to be a vote against the 2007 amendment.

“In this context, we recommend a ‘Yes’ vote, as we believe the status quo is close to the position that we recommended to the Select Committee. However, the wording of the question is so ambiguous, many New Zealanders who support efforts to reduce violence against children, may in good conscience still feel obliged to vote ‘No’. It will be hard to understand what the outcome of the referendum may mean,” says Mr Smith.

He says Caritas will be writing to the Prime Minister and other relevant politicians, expressing concern that the ambiguous nature of the question will result in an outcome that cannot be understood as either supporting or opposing the 2007 amendment.

“We will make it clear that, whatever the outcome of the referendum, we support the 2007 amendment to the Crimes Act. This was the best compromise able to be found at the time which increased child protection, while also taking into account the subsidiarity of families and preventing unnecessary prosecutions.”

Mr Smith says protecting children from physical violence requires action in many other areas, including parental education on alternatives to physical punishment. “In the best interests of families, we would like to see parents able to increase their knowledge of options they have to control their children’s behaviour. That’s where funds could have been better used.”

  • Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 164 Catholic aid, development and social justice agencies active in over 200 countries and territories.

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

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