Sarah Harvey in the SST reports:
A JURY has set a new benchmark under the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation by acquitting a father even though he admitted tying his son to his wrist, shaving his hair off, and washing his mouth out with soap. …
The father and his new wife were found not guilty after a trial on 15 charges alleging cruelty against two children from his previous marriage. The children were aged 10 and under at the time.
The couple’s lawyer used Section 59 of the Crimes Act, the amendment championed by Bradford, as a defence.
The case tested the amendment and showed what a jury would allow in terms of “justified force” to prevent or minimise harm, or to stop the child engaging in “offensive or disruptive behaviour”.
Here’s the irony. If Sue Bradford has gone with the Borrows amendment, then the court case may have ended up differently. Bradford’s law bans any use of force for “correction” but allows “reasonable force” for other purposes such as preventing offensive or disruptive behaviour.
The Borrows amendment would have defined reasonable force for both correctional purposes, but also the other purposes such as preventing disruptive behaviour.
So this is an absolute own goal in my opinion.
“It is probably the worst thing I have ever done to my child, but I grabbed my tie that I wear for church and I tied his wrist to my wrist beside my bed so he couldn’t take off and go and kill himself,” the father told the Sunday Star-Times. “Then he did manage to loosen it, so I did tie it around his neck for only about 30 seconds. I admitted to those things in court, but given the circumstances and what I was trying to achieve – trying to stop him killing himself – I was found not guilty.”
He also gave his son a “number two” haircut to teach him a lesson after a couple of years of stealing from his parents.
He was found not guilty of the charges relating to those incidents, as well as incidents where he was accused of making his children have cold showers, and excessive time-outs. He said the charges were exaggerated, and in some cases fabricated, but admitted the tying, cutting the child’s hair and washing his mouth out.
The jury accepted the three acts happened, but the majority decided they were OK.
Here’s an interesting question. Under the proposed law changes by Simon Power, would these parents have been entitled to a trial bu jury? Depends on what the exact ahrges were I imagine.
Deanne Shilton, the lead juror in the case, contacted the Sunday Star-Times through a third party. She said she was “embarrassed to be a New Zealander” and felt awful for the couple for having to go through the case – particularly the heavily pregnant wife of the father, who was forced to climb several flights of stairs to court cells during any break.
Shilton said she contacted the couple after the case to say how embarrassed she felt. It was obvious to her from the start the couple should be acquitted. She said most, but not all, of the other jurors felt similarly. “Good decent parents trying to instil a sense of responsibility, honesty and integrity, as well as the action-consequence moral in their children have been put through a living hell for their efforts.” …
But Bradford said the incidents were abuse. “I’m not familiar with the details of the case but the sort of things you are talking about – to me they are all assaults against children. And I think it’s really sad that a jury would think that those kind of activities are acceptable.
Might I suggest that it is better to learn the details of the case, rather than just apply labels.
I don’t think anyone condones the listed activities as ideal parenting. But like the jury I would hestitate to turn the parents into criminals for their actions, considering how difficult it sounds like the children were.
But I also do wonder why were the children so disruptive? Look sometimes, a kid is just a “bad apple” and it is no fault of their family or environment. But sometimes kids can rebel against an overly harsh environment. At the end of the day, it is dangerous to make judgements from afar.