Anti-smacking amendment proposed

ACT MP John Boscawen has said:

ACT New Zealand MP today announced that he will introduce a Private Member’s Bill to amend the controversial Anti-Smacking law inflicted on New Zealanders by Labour and the Greens in 2007. …

“While addressing the concerns of those who felt that the original of the Crimes Act was too vague, my amendment to the law will protect from criminalisation those parents who use a light smack for the purpose of correction.

“The amendment will change the Act so that: it is no longer a crime for parents or guardians to use reasonable force to correct children; there are clear statutory limits on what constitutes reasonable force; parents and guardians have certainty about what the law permits; it is no longer reliant on police discretion for the law to be practical and workable.

I have not seen the bill and am interested in what the exact wording will be.

What I would do is base the bill on the Borrows amendment. This allows reasonable force for correction (in addition to the current grounds of preventing harm, preventing crime, prventing offensive or disruptive behaviour and performing normal daily task incidental to good parenting) but places severe limits on what is reasonable force compared to the previous law.

Specifically it excludes force if:

it causes or contributes materially to harm that is more than transitory or trifling; or any weapon, tool or other implement is used

Now National voted for the Borrows amendment at the committee of the whole stage. So if John Boscawen gets his bill selected from the ballot (which may never happen) I think they would feel obligated to vote for it.

And if you put aside the zealots who think they should tell every parent in NZ how to raise their family, most reasonable people would acknowledge that the Borrows amendment would deal with 99% of the cases which have caused concern (the horse whip case etc) without criminalising hundreds of thousands of parents.

Note Curia (which I own) conducted the poll for Family First (on our normal commercial terms) on this law which was released yesterday (and is covered at Curiablog). I had no idea that John was planning a private members bill on this issue, and only found out when I saw his press release.

UPDATE: Sue Bradford has attacked me for the poll, and says it does not align to other polls. Now the 80% opposition to the law has occurred in numerous polls by numerous organisations and I totally reject the suggestion the questions are slanted. In fact the question even goes so far as to mention the Police discretion in the law – yet the public still say they do not support it.

Bradford points to a UMR poll for the Children’s Commissioner which had 43% support the law change and only 28% opposition. But unlike the Curia poll which actually asked people about the specific law change, the UMR poll just asked people if they supported the law change without describing it to them, and further asked them after they had asked them “Should children be entitled to the same protection from assault as adults”. The order of questions is very important and in the poll Curia did we asked people about the law change before asking any other questions.

The question Curia asked was:

In 2007, Parliament passed a law that removes a defence of reasonable force for parents who smack a child to correct their behaviour, but states the Police have discretion not to prosecute if they consider the offence was inconsequential. What is your view of this law?

I am extremely confident that the number of New Zealanders who oppose this law is much greater than 28%.

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