Posts Tagged section 59

Maori Party reaffirms its support for children

July 9, 2009

Maori Party supports rights for children and opposes any violence

Maori Party supports rights for children and opposes any violence

Child discipline law does not make caring parents criminals

July 7, 2009

From the Human Rights Commission

A legal opinion prepared by the Human Rights Commission finds that parents have little reason to be concerned that they risk being prosecuted if they give their child a trivial slap or smack.

The Commission has released the legal opinion to help inform debate in the upcoming referendum on the child discipline legislation.

Critics say the new law creates uncertainty for parents. However the legal opinion says the original section 59 of the Crimes Act was no clearer. It said the use of force by parents “by way of correction” was justified if the force was “reasonable in the circumstances.”

Because “reasonable” was open to interpretation, it led to parents being acquitted for disciplining their children with belts, hose pipes and pieces of wood.

Chief Human Rights Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “We’re asking that all those with a genuine concern for the welfare of children and their parents provide accurate information rather than creating unfounded fears on this issue.”

The Commission’s legal opinion says that children may not be hit for the purpose of correction, but states: “Section 59 now allows parents (or someone acting in that role) to use reasonable force for a variety of purposes including the prevention of harm to the child” and to perform the normal daily job of providing good care and parenting.

The amendments gave the police the discretion to prosecute. When receiving a complaint, the police can choose not to prosecute if the offence is considered so “inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.”

The Chief Commissioner said the police have used their discretion wisely and are not prosecuting parents without good reason.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “The real issue is that there should be no tolerance for violence against children, even in the guise of parental correction.”

The Human Rights Commission supported the amendments to section 59 because it meant that no longer could abusive parents charged with beating their children hide behind a spurious defence.

And because the amendments are a significant step in making real the human rights and responsibilities set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC).

Ms Noonan regretted that the referendum question is so flawed that it cannot but provide a meaningless result. “The great shame is that the confusion the question has spawned will result in apathy and cynicism that will undermine still further people’s willingness to participate in New Zealand’s political processes.”

Protecting kids worth celebrating

June 22, 2009

Press Release: Green Party 21 June 2009

Today New Zealand celebrates two years of positive change for children since the law changed to give children the same legal protection from assault as adults.

New Zealanders should be proud of the progress made in positive child rearing practices with a clear message getting through that the use of force for correction is never justified, said Green Party MPs Sue Bradford and Metiria Turei.

The pair are heartened to celebrate two years of a safer world for our children and young people.

The 2007 amendment removed a legal defence that saw parents who had beaten their children claim a defence of ‘reasonable force’ and escape criminal convictions.

Ms Bradford said the law change is her most significant achievement as an MP, but she cannot take all the credit.

“I’m conscious that it’s a major social reform only brought about through the dedicated work of many individuals, community and church organisations – and MPs.

“But none of us can rest on our laurels.

“It is important now to continue to progress from this positive move and to ensure that the law continues to afford children the greatest possible protection.”

All the evidence so far – including three police reviews – shows the new law is working well. An array of Non-Governmental Organisations – such as Plunket, Barnados, Save the Children, Unicef, Jigsaw, Women’s Refuge and Parents Centre – have joined forces to promote the YesVote campaign, said Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei.

“Our MPs will vote ‘Yes’ in the coming referendum despite the confused and ambiguous question. We recognise that the referendum is a misguided attempt to return our law to the 19th century. On this two year anniversary, we celebrate how far our country has moved to create a safer world for children and young people.”

The young people of New Zealand will look back on the law change as a pivotal seachange in our country’s culture, Mrs Turei said.

“I’m proud of the work our party has done, and the achievements we’ve made with that law change. I’m proud of the work of Sue Bradford, in leading that change for the Green Party and for the community. Our kids will, in time, recognise the importance of this law change too.”

Referendum offers king hit to humanity

June 21, 2009

Deborah Coddington (New Zealand Herald, June 21, 09) decries the “dastardly” referendum in her regular column saying it was organised  “by grown men who should know better”.

She says there is no such thing as a “loving smack, just as there is no such thing as a hateful hug” adding that it was no wonder children were “not valued as individuals in this country, but instead as some sort of chattel belonging to adults”

“We do not own our children,” she says, “a fact that has yet to be driven home to those selfish individuals who fight their way through the Family Court over who has the offspring, ensuring any remaining family happiness is destroyed forever.”

She goes on to argue that she doesn’t see a future in NZ for treasured children nor respect for their presence.

She admits she gave little thought to the issue until 10 years ago when she wrote about the death of James Whakaruru and realised how “normal it was for discipline to include beating children”

She concludes asking how we would react if the question was: “Should forced sex, as part of a good marriage, be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”

Referendum smacks of small-minded smugness

June 21, 2009

In his column in the Sunday Star Times (21/6/09) Finlay Macdonald takes apart the referendum question calling it “ambiguous” and “an indictment of the intelligence of those behind it”. Instead he suggests his own  question: “During a recession, should the linguistically challenged be allowed to waste taxpayers’ money on pushing their reactionary agenda?”

No thinking person, he writes, “regardless of their personal parenting philosophy” could answer the referendum’s question in good faith.

He concludes by saying: “All the law now states is that nothing in all that “justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction”. In other words, if you belt your kids just to teach them a lesson, rather than to prevent some clear and present danger or disruption, the law is not necessarily on your side.

In their continuing resistance to such healthy reform and their lamentable inability to even mount a coherent argument against it, the backers of this referendum disqualify themselves from any claim to have the best interests of children at heart.”

Constructive debate called for on second anniversary of child discipline law

June 21, 2009

Media Statement: The Yes Vote Coalition 21 June 2009

Debate ahead of the August referendum on the child discipline law risks being the same polarising, wasted opportunity as it was in 2007, says the Yes Vote coalition.

“The Yes Vote welcomes the fact that all political parties, except Act, have pledged their support for the child discipline law, which came into effect two years ago today.

“While the last week has been an important demonstration that our political leaders understand the importance of retaining the law as it is, the debate has reignited some of the angry and abusive tone that characterised debate in 2007…

“The reality is that when it comes to stopping New Zealand’s appallingly high rates of child deaths and abuse by international standards, we are all on the same side,” said Yes Vote spokesperson Deborah Morris-Travers.

“Yet some of the mud slung at supporters of the current legislation obscures this important fact of national unity.

“We have never promoted the view that simply passing a law would either instantly change attitudes or national child abuse statistics.  To expect that would be naïve.  However, opponents of the law continually cite individual abuse cases as “evidence” the law isn’t working,” said Ms Morris-Travers.

“There is a slow shift occurring in New Zealand, which has already occurred in many countries, away from physical discipline as an acceptable element of parenting.  The child discipline law has an important contribution, over time, to reducing the attitudes and behaviours that put children at risk of abuse.

“I suspect that in 10, 20, 30 years time, we will look back with the same surprise as we now look back on racial segregation, opposition to the women’s’ movement, or native forest clear-felling and we’ll wonder what this debate was all about.

“Change takes time and leadership.  The Yes Vote welcomes the political leadership shown over the past week.

“We have noted the many public statements from journalists and MPs expressing disapproval of the referendum question and of the cost, however, we see this as an opportunity to better inform people about the child discipline law, how it is working two years on, and the importance of ensuring a focus on the interests of children.”

Ms Morris-Travers concluded by saying, “We look forward to constructive participation in a national debate as the referendum unfolds and we remind people there are some good reasons to vote in the referendum, to support a Yes Vote:

  • To demonstrate that people are not fooled by the referendum’s tricky question.
  • To continue to demonstrate to politicians that there is support for the law.
  • To address attempts to undermining public confidence in the law.
  • To achieve some quiet time for the law to bed down peacefully and have a positive effect on the way children are disciplined in New Zealand.
  • To observe over time, and in an unbiased way, how it is working in practice.”
  • Contact: Deborah Morris-Travers.  Tel 0274 544 299

Campbell Live: Larry Baldock issues ransom letter to John Key

June 17, 2009

Tonight’s Campbell Live asks the question, “What would you do with $9 million?”  A txt poll taken by Campbell Live shows that 61% of respondents believe that $9m on a referendum is a waste of money. Larry Baldock, the person who organised the referendum, seems confused about how best to spend $9m of taxpayer money.  But not too confused to try to take advantage of the situation.

Baldock has issued a ransom letter to John Key stating that he’d withdraw the referendum if the government removes subclause 2 and subclause 3 from Section 59 of the Crimes Act… in other words, reintroduces “reasonable force” as a defence against assaulting a child.

That’s unlikely.  We the taxpayers get to pay the price for Larry’s Folly.

Watch the video.

Sue Bradford: Vote YES to send the right messages to children, parents, and politicians

June 10, 2009

In early 2006, in the epilogue of the book, Unreasonable Force: New Zealand’s journey towards banning physical punishment of children, I said:

Despite the years of debate about the place of physical punishment in child rearing there are still some people who fear or even resent the law change. However, I believe that it will not be long before the vast majority of people in our country will feel confident that Parliament did children a great service in 2007.

I still believe this strongly. I am confident that despite the upcoming referendum, and whatever its non-binding outcome may be, children in this country are benefiting from a move away from the use of physical discipline.

Over time this will result in many more children having safe and positive childhoods and fewer adults regarding the use of violence as a right.

Individuals and organisations who oppose the law change hope that the referendum outcome will lead to the reintroduction of a statutory defence so that parents can be confident they are within the law when they smack, whack or hit their children. These people believe that a smack is part of good parental correction. It’s not of course.

Any reversal of the law would be saying to New Zealanders that it is a good thing to smack your child. Some parents will believe that if one smack does not work let’s do it harder and more often. And what will the children be learning when they are smacked?

I reckon the messages they will take on board are things like: “The person I trust and love wants to hurt me” and “When you are very angry with someone you should hit them”.

There are other messages that a reversal of the 2007 law would symbolise as well. For example, it would tell us that children are not entitled to the same protection from assaults that adults enjoy, and that while society has come a long way from the days when we condoned wife beating as standard practice in the home, a return to state sanctioned child beating would be fine.

I believe the new law is working well. Parents are not being prosecuted for minor assaults.

The section 59 law change was never about punishing parents. It was about influencing attitudes positively and I believe this is happening. Many parents, grandparents and others now have a healthy interest in learning about alternatives to physical discipline.

The upcoming referendum will no doubt be accompanied by familiar arguments.

For example, some of our opponents say that the law change has not led to a change in behaviour and that it has not led to a reduction in child abuse.

I have no idea what these claims are based on. The section 59 law change was never going to immediately address serious child battering or murder – how could it?. Laws in themselves to not stop people committing crimes – individual and societal attitudes do.

All we could ever hope to do with the section 59 amendment was to level the playing field by removing the ‘reasonable force’ defence for physical punishment, and work towards a gradual change in attitudes throughout society, aiming for a time when people will no longer see beating or smacking children as either desirable or acceptable.

Beliefs about the use of physical punishment are one factor in child abuse. Of course there are others – like poverty, poor housing, drug and alcohol abuse, physical and mental illness and intergenerational family violence, which can all be contributory factors.

But violence and abuse can happen in the wealthiest of families, and attitudes about hitting children are a key part of the equation wherever you look. It is the underpinning acceptance of violence against children that we have to keep changing, both through the law change and with more and improved parent information and support.

I welcome the opportunity the referendum gives us to remind ourselves about the responsibilities of nurturing children, of raising them in violence free homes, and of finding ways to guide their behaviour that enhance self esteem and the development of self responsibility.

I encourage anyone reading this to vote Yes for Children, to vote Yes to keep the law change so many of us have worked for over many years.

Phil Goff: Labour is opposed to reversing the repeal of Section 59

June 9, 2009

We have received a letter from Phil Goff, which was released from his office for publication on our web site.  In it, he clearly states:

Labour is opposed to reversing the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act.  We believe that the law is working as intended and has not resulted in any criminal sanctions against good parents who do not harm their children.

We look forward to the other parties stating their position with such clarity.

Jan Pryor: Community agencies value the Families Commission

June 2, 2009

The appointment of Christine Rankin to the Board of the Families Commission has put the spotlight on the work of The Families Commission, particularly our support for the new child discipline law.

The renewed debate on physical punishment shows how poorly the intent and purpose of the new law has been communicated to the public. I was surprised last week to hear a prominent lawyer (among others) say that the new child discipline law had not stopped child abuse. Simply making it illegal to break and enter a home doesn’t stop burglaries and no one expects it to. So it’s puzzling that there is an expectation that one law, on its own, will stop child abuse.

The repeal of Section 59 is part of a whole-of-society effort that is underway to reduce and prevent family violence. A lot of this is focused on building understanding about family violence and changing attitudes so people are less tolerant and more likely to seek help, or report incidents of violence. Some of this is being done through the It’s Not OK campaign, which was developed with the Families Commission leadership, funding and research in partnership with community organisations and other government agencies. The White Ribbon Day campaign is another of the Commission’s projects which is helping to change attitudes toward violence in families.

In an act of courage and leadership Parliament made sure our assault law was consistent with this work and gave children the same protection that was given to their parents. Now, when a parent is charged with assault, there is no longer a legal defence that the parent was using ‘reasonable force’ to discipline the child.

It’s a law that is working well in combination with the other work that is being done. Last week, a Christchurch father who punched his four year old son in the face and flicked his ear was found guilty of assault. The father’s lawyer told the court he was using reasonable force to discipline his son, but this is no longer a defence. The man’s yelling and abusive behaviour had caught the attention of passers by who were concerned enough to report the incident. Their willingness to step forward on behalf of the child is part of a new trend resulting from the It’s Not OK campaign. Research shows that one in five people who have seen the television advertisements have taken some sort of action because they were concerned about their behaviour or the behaviour of someone else. Our belief is that as intolerance grows, more and more people will speak up when they see or hear violent and abusive behaviour within families. It is this sort of action that will make it less likely that another Nia Glassie will die.

Last week, a Christchurch Press columnist criticised the research done by the Commission. He used our recent report on the difficulties shift-working parents have in managing childcare to illustrate his point of view. He felt that the information from these families was simply a statement of what the public already knew. Far from it. This was a small study done within the context of a much bigger project that looks at just what it is that families need in the way of child care services. By drilling down and doing intensive interviews with a range of families we are able to determine patterns of need, whether people’s arrangements work and what would they prefer in the way of support. The resulting information, along with our analysis, is now being made available to government and service providers and should, in time, result in services and support being much more targeted. This in turn should lead to more efficient use and delivery of resources. That’s the thing about research. It provides facts on which to base decisions and services, rather than opinion and anecdotes.

One of the other common statements made about the Commission is that its work could be done by some other government agency. That may be partly true of some of our research so we are careful to make sure we don’t duplicate the work of others. But the Comission is unique in that it was specifically set up to advocate for families and to provide independent and impartial advice to government and to other organisations. We are also tasked with taking the resilience and strengths of families into account in our work rather than focusing on their deficits.

We acknowledge that The Christchurch Press’s columnist is probably not alone in knowing little about the Commission. Our work is often done behind the scenes, in partnership with many other agencies, community organisations and government departments. However I believe a street poll would reveal that the public knows just as little about the work of Internal Affairs or the Ministry of Social Development as it does about the Commission.

But ask any large community agency that works with families who we are and what we do and I am confident you will find they support and value the contribution we are making through our research, information, advice and support.

Jan Pryor is the Chief Commissioner at The Families Commission

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

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