On the 15th March 2007, Greens MP Sue Bradford put out a press release in relation to her bill amending section 59 saying “I have never called it an anti-smacking bill – my opponents did, and the media adopted the phrase. Smacking a child is already an assault under section 194 of the Crimes Act 1961. It has been this way for over a century. If my Bill is passed this will not change.” (http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR10668.html)
However, in a press release from 2003 when the bill was first mooted, the release is entitled “Greens draw up their own anti-smacking bill” and says “The Greens are designing a bill that will stop parents physically punishing their children, in line with United Nations demands.” (http://www.greens.org.nz/searchdocs/PR6778.html)
This proves that the media and groups like Family First have been correct in labeling the bill the ‘anti-smacking’ bill, and that the supporters of the bill are trying to mislead the country regarding the effects of this bill.
The supporters of the bill have also been dishonest by saying that smacking a child is already an assault.
In 2003, Judge Ingalls QC, Family District Court Judge, said “as a matter of law the effect of Section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961 in smacking of a child for the purposes of correction, was entirely lawful if the force used was reasonable in the circumstances. Reasonable force used against a child for the purposes of correction could not be, by law, categorized as physical abuse of a child.”
Grant Illingworth QC says “The relevant part of the current section 59 provides that every parent of a child and every person in the place of the parent of a child is “justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances”. The important word is “justified”. The use of this word is the clearest possible indication that the act in question (reasonable use of force for correction) is NOT unlawful.”
While the Prime Minister has said “It’s actually illegal now to smack your child”, Sue Bradford has been forced to acknowledge that not all smacking is illegal under the law.
Family First calls on the MP’s to use education and policies that strengthen, not criminalise families, to tackle child abuse – and not to be misled by the rhetoric of the supporters of this bill who will do anything they can to mislead the public into supporting this bill.