More Section 59 debate

Tony Milne has done a constructive response to my latest post (which was deliberately non inflammatory) on the Section 59 debate.

I’ll deal with a couple of Tony’s points and then go back to what I think is the crux of the debate:

The Bradford Bill does make it clear that in the course of everyday parenting smacking is permitted. And if that wording isn’t quite adequate, why don’t they improve it, rather than vote it down?

The Borrows amendment is exactly that – an improvement to the Bradford bill. If it got adopted, I suspect the bill would pass with over 110 votes in favour. The problem with the bill as currently worded is it permits smacking for some situations, but not for others. It allows you to smack to stop a child being publicly disruptive, but not to smack for coerrective reasons if they are privately disruptive at home. We’ll come back to this point.

PS: David, you have called me a ‘ranter’ for saying those opposed to repeal of section 59 are ‘pro violence’. I’ll happily retract, if you apologise for the weeks of calling me and others “anti-smackers”. I’m not sure why you think it is fair to spend weeks branding people who disagree with you things they don’t believe while taking offense (indeed labelling as ranting) at me calling the pro-smacking camp pro-violence.

I think most people would say it is more offensive to be labelled pro-violence than it is to be labelled as anti-smacking. And the problem is many of the opponents of the Borrows amendment are anti smacking. Not all, but many are. I’m happy to accept Tony’s assurance that he doesn’t think smacking should be banned for correctional purposes.

For all of those in the comments sections suggestion I shouldn’t have a view on this debate because I don’t have children – I assume you are going to immediately go to David Farrar’s site and disagree with his view and tell him it isn’t valid for the same reason.

I absolutely agree that trying to deny someone a voice because they do not have children themselves is silly. Having said that, I do think actual parental experience can be a valid issue in some situations. As sympathetic as I am towards couples who have kids, I don’t know first hand just how stressful it is to constantly be looking after a child, minimising harm, helping educate them etc. Being an uncle isn’t the same. I often stand in awe of the sacrifices parents make for their children. That’s one reason I don’t think we should second guess how they raise their kids, unless they are clearly failing in protecting and educating them.

But anyway back to the crux of the issue with regards to the Borrows amendment, and why Clark and Bradford and co reject it. They claim they only want to target the most serious abuse cases which are getting off in the courts (which average one very two years incidentally) and that parents who lightly smack their children for correctional purposes won’t have to worry about prosecution because Police will use common sense.

But, and this is the big but, why then did they feel the need to insert legislative defences for the use of force, or smacking, when it is being done to prevent harm or prevent disruption? I mean by the same logic, the Police would use common sense and not prosecute?

Parents feel this bill is MPs telling them how to raise their children. And they are in fact right. Because Bradford and Clark have a bill which says we approve of you smacking your children for the purposes of preventing harm or preventing disruption (and will give specific legislative protection to you) but we do not approve of you smacking your children for correctional purposes, so we will not give you any protection for that.

This is extremely judgemental. This is effectively a ban on smacking for correctional purposes. Because otherwise why do they just rely on the common sense of the Police for all cases of smacking?

Personally I trust the vast majority of parents to judge the context correctly of whether they think smacking is appropriate. I don’t think parents need MPs to tell them we approve of you smacking your child for this purpose, but we do not approve for this other purpose.

The original unamended Bradford bill was defensible. It had the advantage of being able to send a very clear message that the law does not allow any force against children. It would have left all complaints of force to the discretion of the Police and maybe the courts (and CYFS). I can understand that rationale, even if not overly convinced by it.

But the bill as amended is actually less defensible. If the MPs supporting it really believed that one can trust the Police to use discretion sensibly, then they would not need the four exemptions they have placed in. They should argue that the Police would never charge you for smacking your child to stop him running onto the street in front of a car. But by putting these defences in for minimising harm, preventing a criminal offence, preventing offensive/disruptive behaviour and “good care and parenting” yet explicitly rejecting it for “the purpose of correction”, they are being totally inconsistent.

So it is hard not to conclude that the intent is to ban smacking for correctional purposes, if one votes against the Borrows amendment. Because if you really believed in leaving it to the discretion of the police, you would not have the other four defences. You would just remove Section 59 entirely.

Comments (38)

Login to comment or vote

Add a Comment

%d bloggers like this: