QC Slams Smacking Law

Family First NZ says that an Op-Ed in the Christchurch Press today by Grant Illingworth QC has highlighted a number of legal concerns shared by Family First about the anti-smacking law.

In the article titled “Good Motive, but bad law”, Mr Illingworth QC who specializes in public law says that the anti-smacking law is an inappropriate response to the problem of child abuse for three reasons – “…the first is that the amendment is an extremely poor piece of legal drafting in that it is calculated to create confusion rather than clarity. The second is that it criminalizes behaviour which should not be classified as a criminal offence. The third is that it fails to provide adequate protection for those whom it was designed to help.”

He also attacks the confusion of the law, which has been confirmed by recent research commissioned by Family First, and says that it “…translates into an absolute rule that you are never allowed to administer even a very mild smack if your purpose is to help a child to learn how to behave. Confused? So am I. And it seems obvious that a law which confuses people is not going to help much in regulating their behaviour.”

Mr Illingworth rejects the police discretion clause and labels it “muddled thinking” and “bringing the law into disrepute”. He says “It is a serious thing to say that someone has committed a crime, irrespective of whether the person is prosecuted. Surely we should reserve that kind of condemnation for situations that really warrant the intervention of the criminal law.”

Significantly, he ridicules those who have attacked the Referendum question as confusing and says “…the question is a justifiable response to the problem created by the wording and legal effect of the new section. The law, as it now stands, means that the use of mild force for the purpose of well-motivated parental correction is a criminal offence. The question posed in the referendum simply asks us to say whether that should be so.”

“Mr Illingworth is right and the politicians should pay attention to this legal analysis. If Q.C.’s find the law confusing and unnecessary, where does that place parents simply trying to raise great kids,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

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