Posts Tagged smacking

The sixth police review: The Child Discipline Law is still working well

March 7, 2010

The New Zealand Police released their 6th review of the implementation Crimes (substituted section 59) Amendment Act 2007 on Friday 5th March 2010. It covered the six-month period from 24 June 2009 to December 22nd 2009.  You can read the Police media release, or download the full report.

The report  indicates that the number of complaints about smacking and minor acts of physical discipline have remained fairly constant since the law changed. In the recent six month period there were two prosecutions – one for smacking and one for a minor act of physical discipline. Both were resolved by way of Diversion. In the cases were there was no prosecution made many parents were given warnings and a significant number were referred to organisations that could provide or direct families to support and guidance.

There has been an increase in the number of complaints in the category “Other Child Assault” which refers to more heavy handed assaults on children. As the police say the increase is consistent with “reduced tolerance and increased reporting of child assault events”.

We do not know whether or not the law change has contributed to the welcome decrease in tolerance of violence to children or n fact reduced assaults on children – relevant baseline data does not exist.

The continual cry from pro-smackers that the law change has not reduced serious child abuse is a distraction aimed at undermining the law.  The Child Discipline Law is not a quick fix – this kind of change will take years, and results from a wide range of efforts. An independent group of experts convened by Social Development Minister Paula Benett last week recommended a multi-faceted approach.

The claim that the complaints made to the Police are a waste of precious Police resources is quite unfounded.

It is entirely appropriate that Police investigate all reports of violence to children – any physical discipline can be a precursor, or indicator of, more serious child abuse. It is also appropriate that most cases of minor assault do not end in prosecution – there are more constructive options for helping to change aggressive parental behaviour. Punishment of parents is not a primary objective of the law change. Social change is.

Police publish two-year review of Section 59

August 25, 2009

NZ Police has published a summary of two years monitoring of relevant police activity since enactment of the Crimes (Substituted section 59) Amendment Act 2007.

This project began on 17th March 2007, three months prior to enactment. It ended on 22nd June 2009 two years after enactment.

Regular updates have been published since June 2007. This final report includes the 5th monitoring period (5th April 2009 to 22nd June 2009) not previously reported.

During the two years police brought one prosecution for smacking which was subsequently withdrawn. A further 13 prosecutions were brought for events classified as “minor acts of physical discipline”. These events may have included a smacking element plus other aggravating factors.

Of those 14 cases prosecuted sentences included diversion, discharge without conviction, conviction and discharged, and supervision.

Deputy Commissioner (Operations) Rob Pope says the monitoring shows police have consistently applied their discretion when dealing with child assault events.

“The amendment has had minimal impact on police activity and officers have continued to apply a commonsense approach”

“The monitoring has shown that practice guidelines issued by the Commissioner in June 2007 have been effective in guiding police when dealing with these difficult cases”

“Police has continued to apply its discretion and assess each incident on a case by case basis”

Notes:

(i) Two new reports are available on the police website at www.police.govt.nz/resources. These are the final 2 months of monitoring (5th review) plus the summary report of all reviews over the last two years.

(ii) The 1063 child assault events identified in this review period are not the total number of child assault events attended nationally by police during this time. These are events which, according to 7 offence codes, were most likely to identify incidents which might involve ‘smacking’. This is because ‘smacking’ in itself is not an offence.

The Police Family Violence Governance Group and the Ministry of Social Development agreed to examine the following seven offence types:

  • Assault Child (Manually)
  • Assault Child (Other Weapon)
  • Common Assault (Domestic)(Manually) Common Assault (Manually)
  • Other Assault on Child (Under 14 Years)
  • Common Assault Domestic (Other Weapon)
  • Other Common Assault

And based on this examination the events were allocated to one of each of the following categories: ‘smacking’, ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ and ‘other child assault’. The rationale used to allocate each event to a specific category involved consideration of the:

  • actual physical action used in the child assault; and
  • the context and the surrounding circumstances, as outlined in the Commissioners Circular.

(iv) The Commissioner’s Circular on this issue released in June 2007 can be found on the NZ Police website

A wooden spoon for Larry Baldock

August 23, 2009

Smacking isn’t enough for Larry Baldock, the man who collected thousands of signatures for the referendum.

He wants to bring back the ruler and wooden spoon.  He was quoted in the Herald as saying,

“I’m not opposed to the wooden spoon or ruler because you can control things with that better than you can with an open hand.”

We’d like to thank Larry for showing his true colours.  And evidently Bob McCoskrie agrees with him. But where will it stop?

Sue Bradford: There is no offence called smacking, but there is an offence of assault

August 12, 2009

As I am sure everyone is excruciatingly well aware, we are right now in the middle of the postal referendum on the physical discipline of children.

Voting started on 31 July and finishes on 21 August.

At a cost of $9 million to the taxpayer, the referendum asks:

Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?

I reckon this question is both misleading and ambiguous.

A lot of people tell me they have no intention of voting, or are going to spoil their ballot paper, because they are angry about money being wasted on such a confused proposition.

Other people are keen to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ because they have strong views on the issue and want to vote regardless.

This includes me of course. I will be voting ‘Yes’ and encouraging others to do the same, as I see that voting ‘Yes’ is a vote for keeping the law as it is.

Parents are not being prosecuted in their droves for giving their children a ‘smack’.

There is actually no offence called ‘smacking’ in New Zealand law.

There is, however, an offence of ‘assault’ which has always been there.

What the law change in 2007 achieved was simply the removal of the defence of ‘reasonable force for the purpose of correction’ which in the past allowed some parents to get away with quite badly beating their children.

The ‘reasonable force’ defence also meant parents felt they had a state-sanctioned right to use physical force as a way of disciplining their children.

New Zealand made a huge step forward two years ago when Parliament voted by a huge majority to take away this defence and give our children the same legal protection from violence as we adults enjoy.

I hope that despite the anger people justifiably feel at the way in which money is being wasted on this confused referendum question, some of you at least will consider voting ‘yes’ as an expression of support for the law change.

People often ask me, ‘If you think this question is so ambiguous, what should the question have been?”

Of course it could have been any number of things, but I believe a much fairer question would have been something like ‘Should the defence of reasonable force for the purpose of correction be available to New Zealand parents?’

At least people would then have been a lot clearer on what they were voting for or against.

I have put a member’s bill forward seeking to ensure that in future when someone comes up with a proposal for a citizens’ initiated referendum, the Clerk of the House – who approves these questions – has more legal guidance on what should go forward.

I am suggesting that questions that are ambiguous complex, leading or misleading should not be accepted, and that the proposer keeps working on the question with the Clerk until it is clear and simple.

I am in discussions with the Minister of Justice about this at the moment, and hope the Government may change the law in this area as a result.

Meanwhile, the debate on whether our kids deserve a childhood free from violence continues, and will for a while yet, whatever the result on 21 August.

TVNZ Sunday Documentary on Smacking

August 10, 2009

TVNZ’s Sunday programme ran an excellent documentary on our “smacking culture” and the referendum.

Be sure to watch it!

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More analysis of the Police statistics

August 5, 2009

Open Parachute has a cogent summary of the recent Police Statistics on the Child Discipline Law.

1:  “Smacking” in itself is not an offence. The report had to consider offence codes which weren’t “smacking” but most likely to include “smacking” type incidents.

2: The legislation has had “minimal impact on police activity.”

3: During the review period “police attended 279 child assault events, 39 involved ‘minor acts of physical discipline’ and 8 involved smacking.”

4: There has been a decrease in ‘smacking events’ and ‘minor acts of physical discipline.’

5: There has been an increase (36) of ‘other child assault’ events. (We should be concerned about these).

6: “No prosecutions were made for ‘smacking’ events during this period.”

Read the whole article at Open Parachute.

US report show clear connection between abuse and physical punishment

July 3, 2009

Report on physical punishment in the United States: What research tells us about its effects on children

An extensive report from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, USA on the effects of physical punishment on children clearly shows connections between physical abuse in later life and physical punishment as a child.

Published last year (2008) the main goal of the report is to provide a concise review of the empirical research to date on the effects physical punishment has on children. It was created for parents and others who care for children, professionals who provide services to them, those who develop policy and programmes that affect children and families, interested members of the public, and children themselves.

The report’s author, Elizabeth T Gershoff, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, received her doctoral degree in Child Development and worked for five years at the National Centre for Children in Poverty at Columbia University.

Her current research focuses on the impacts of parenting and violence exposure on child and youth development over time and within the contexts of families, schools, neighbourhoods and social policies.

The research supports several conclusions:

– There is little research evidence that physical punishment improves children’s behaviour in the long term.

– There is substantial research evidence that physical punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future.

– There is clear research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased mental health problems.

– There is consistent evidence that children who are physically punished are at greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse.

It also reveals that mounting research evidence shows that physical punishment of children is an ineffective parenting practice comes at a time of decreasing support for physical punishment within the United States and around the world.

The majority of American adults are opposed to physical punishment by school personnel. An increasing number of Americans (now at 29 percent) are opposed to physical punishment by parents. At the same time, there is a growing momentum among other countries to enact legal bans on all forms of physical punishment, bolstered by the fact that the practice has come to be regarded as a violation of international human rights law.

The clear connections between physical abuse and physical punishment that have been made in empirical research and in the child abuse statutes of several states in the US suggest that reduction in parents’ use of physical punishment should be included as integral parts of state and federal child abuse prevention efforts.

Loving smack? Hateful hug?

June 26, 2009

By Deborah Coddington

Why am I supporting the Yes Vote Team? For a number of reasons.

First, there’s the pragmatic reason.

Ten years ago I didn’t think much about Section 59 of the Crimes Act, but then I was assigned to write a feature for North & South magazine on the short life and cruel death of James Whakaruru. I interviewed the families of James and his killer and I realised, to my horror, that it wasn’t just a “light smack” used as everyday discipline, but jug cords, vacuum cleaner pipes, belts, closed fists, pieces of wood – anything close at hand when tempers were lost.

Members of the whanau argued with me, even as the earth on James’ grave was still fresh and the little windmills fluttered in the Hawke’s Bay breeze, this was acceptable if their children were naughty. Misbehaviour was defined as not eating their food, answering back or not answering back depending on the mood of the parent, making a mess – in fact any behaviour seemed to depend on what side of bed the parents got out of.

With some people you can educate and persuade as much as you like but you’re never going to make a difference. I believe you have to accept that laws must be changed if children’s lives are to made better. I accept that children will still die – sadly – and children will still be bashed, but there will be parents whose behaviour will be moderated because it is against the law to smack, belt, slap or whatever you like to call it.

You only have to look at smoking laws, or seatbelt laws, to see how they have changed people’s habits.

Secondly, the philosophical reason. I believe in the non-initiation of force, so why shouldn’t that apply to children as well as adults? Why should children have a lesser defence in court when they have suffered violence?

If I give my husband a shove, or a flick over the ear, or even a smack on the bottom, that is assault. There is no defence. If he lays a complaint and it goes to court, I cannot use “reasonable force” as defence because my husband might have come home late from the pub for the fifth time that week and needed some discipline.

So why should a child, who may have suffered similar initiation of force against their person, not be similarly protected? A child is a human being, with the same powers of reason as an adult – a mind, a heart, a brain. A child is not an “almost human being”.

Thirdly, getting rid of Nanny State. Eh?

Yes, you read that correctly, I want Nanny State out of our lives. Therefore the same law should apply to adults and children (though I am happy with the John Key amendment as it stands).

The pro-smackers who claim Nanny State is telling parents how to raise their children by banning smacking are actually doing more of the same by telling parents what kind of smack they can give their children. Act MP John Boscawen wants a new Bill which would allow a light smack. This is just another politician butting in with another law. Sue Bradford’s Bill actually got Nanny State out of people’s lives, but there was so much hysteria, nobody seemed to realise that.

I don’t expect miracles from Sue Bradford’s law change but hopefully, in the next few decades, we might see a shift in attitudes toward children in this country. It doesn’t help when issues are poisoned, and people like Christine Rankin are applauded for polarising the debate. It’s not simply a case of leftie versus rightie; Commie versus Christian. Jesus said suffer the little children to come to me, but Family First backs a father who allegedly repeatedly pushed over his little boy on the rugby field.

Loving smack? No such thing. How about hateful hug? And finally, consider this. Within marriage, rape was once legal between man and wife because marriage was taken as consent. Imagine we were campaigning to change the law, and those who opposed the amendment had written a referendum question which asked: “Should forced sex as part of a good marriage be a criminal act?”

I won’t smack my son

June 24, 2009

KERRY WILLIAMSON on his Dominion Post blog, says he would like to think that he will never smack his new-born baby boy – ever.

“No matter how mad I get when he acts up, I just don’t want to be that kind of parent. No matter how loud he screams, no matter how big a tantrum he throws, and no matter how much he ignores me, I don’t want to smack him,” he writes.

He’s also annoyed that the government has legislated to this effect saying: “I’d like to think that parents should be able to parent however they want. I’d like to think that parents are responsible, caring and considerate towards their children. I can’t imagine that not being the case. “

However, he says, the reality is not so nice nor easy and goes on to cite numerous and terrible cases of child cruelty in New Zealand meted out by parents who believe in physical punishment.

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?”

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

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