Roughan on Smacking

John Roughan’s column on the is one I have to respond to:

There is something very creepy about this smacking referendum now arriving in the mail. What exactly do the citizens behind this initiative, men like Bob McCoskrie, mean by “good parental correction”?

Well for me it is being able to legally give your child a light smack on the hand or behind if they misbehave. Something probably 90% of parents have done – s0 how is that creepy?

Their publicity pretends they mean nothing more than the smack that an anxious or annoyed parent might use to stop or prevent dangerous or offensive behaviour. But that can’t be all they want because the law now expressly permits the use of parental force for exactly those purposes.

To prevent disruptive behaviour yes, but not to correct it. And that distinction is silly personally.

To cite one example. If you have told your child not to touch something, then it is legal to give them a smack on the hand if you are quick enough to do it as they try to touch it. That is preventing disruptive behaviour.

But if they have been fast enough to do it, it is illegal to them smack them on the hand a few second later as correction.

Delayed, systematic parental correction is the old-fashioned hiding. It was often called a “good hiding”.

That is what the recent amendment to the Crimes Act has criminalised. That, I suspect, is the “good parental correction” we are being asked to endorse in this referendum.

This is such a red herring. Almost everyone I know who does not like the current law, says they think the Borrows amendment would be a good outcome, rather than go back to the old law. The Borrows amendment would define “reasonable force” massively below a “good hiding”. It would exclude any use of an implement, anything that causes bruising, in fact anything where the effect is beyond trifling and transitory. And it would allow it for correctional purposes, as well as the other stuff such as preventing disruption etc.

Here is what many people do not know. The current law does not define what is reasonable for the purposes of preventing disruption. It does not rule out a whack in the head. If your child is screaming abuse at you, you could punch them to the ground and potentially claim that was reasonable force to prevent or stop the disruption. You could hit them with an implement and argue reasonable force.

You see the Bradford law did not change the definition of reasonable force from the old law – despite all the horror stories told. All it did was say you can no longer use reasonable force for correction, but can for preventing disruptive behaviour etc.

The Borrows amendment would provide far greater safeguard, as it would set the definition of reasonable force as low as possible and apply it to all situations.

Those who initiated the referendum know what the new law says. They know it permits reasonable force for all the preventive situations they are fond of citing.

They pretend it does not because they could not attract majority support for the restoration of the right to flog children. Don’t be deceived by them. Should a smack, as part of good parental correction, be a criminal offence in New Zealand? Absolutely.

I think it is sad when invents motives for those you disagree with, rather than rationally debate the issue.

My challenge to John R would be to look closely at the Borrows amendment and then explain how this would be inferior to the current law.

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