Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill

8 January 2007

Simon Maude, the Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Zealand Law Society, says the Section does not endorse the Select Committee's amendments to the Crimes (Abolition of Force as a Justification for Child Discipline) Amendment Bill. The Family Law Section's view is that the proposed amendment is inadequate and it strongly urges that careful consideration be given to what is appropriate by way of use of force when disciplining a child, so that a clear message can be sent to the public that violence against children is not acceptable, and so that there can be consistency and certainty in the outcomes of criminal prosecutions.

The Section consulted the Society's Criminal Law Committee, which agrees that the proposed amendment is unwieldy and would create significant problems for police in prosecutions involving violence against children.

The Family Law Section made submissions to the Select Committee that the existing defence to an assault on a child, if reasonable force was used for the purposes of correction, should be amended to clearly define what force could be used. The resultant Bill, that has now been put before the House for a second reading, appears to be a hasty political compromise and astounds the Section because it justifies the use of force against a child if it is for the purpose of, among other things, “performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting”. This appears to be a prescription that widens rather than narrows what is permissible and certainly does nothing to create certainty.

The proposed amendment does nothing to assist the police or the Courts in defining what level of force, if any, is appropriate and the Section's view is that it will only increase legal uncertainty as to outcome when prosecutions are brought. Furthermore it will enable a more indiscriminate use of force than had otherwise been justified under the old legislation.

Simon Maude
Chair

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