Backdown on Bradford Bill Still Not Total Victory for Families

Family First is hoping that the guarantee given by National party leader John Key that the latest amendment to section 59 will “give comfort to parents they would not be prosecuted for lightly smacking their kids” is correct.

“If this is the legal effect of the amendment, then this is a step in the right direction. Good parents should not be criminalised for smacking their children in a reasonable manner for the purpose of parental correction and guidance,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First.

“We have always argued that Bradford’s original bill and groups like Barnardos, Plunket, EPOCH and the Children’s and Families’ Commissioner were out of touch with the reality of parenting, and were going to extremes to tackle our unacceptable rate of child abuse without any sound scientific evidence that a smacking ban would affect that rate.”

Mr McCoskrie says this amendment is a huge backdown by Sue Bradford and the supporters of the bill who wanted a complete ban on any physical discipline – even discipline deemed reasonable by over 80% of NZ’ers.

Family First is still concerned by a number of factors related to the amended bill
1.The legality of reasonable force which is “inconsequential” but for the purpose of ‘correction’ should be explicitly stated in the law.
2.The direction to Police to use discretion regarding “inconsequential” discipline should be automatically extended to Child Youth and Family (CYF). It is unwarranted CYF intervention that parents fear far more than the police.
3.The ‘Police discretion’ may be bad news for parents who are already on the wrong side of the law, but are not guilty of unreasonable parenting. It is also another burden on an over-worked and under-resourced Police force

“It appears that in a misguided attempt to tackle child abuse, politicians have simply given section 59 a case of ‘verbal diarrhoea’ which has made the law so complex that it simply sows confusion into parenting, and gives no reassurance to parents that a reasonable smack for the purpose of correction is within the law,” says Mr McCoskrie. “This is an unacceptable burden to place on parents.”

Parents deserve to know with some confidence whether they are parenting within the law.

Family First calls for the law to be explicit that parents will not be prosecuted by the Police or CYF’s for lightly smacking their children within the context of good parental correction.

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