Yippee!

John Key has announced that National will oppose ACT MP John Boscawen’s Bill to legalise violence aganist children.

So regardless of what Labour will do (and Trevor Mallard seems to be equivocal, although also appears to be firming up Labour to oppose), the votes of the Green, Maori and National parties should see this appalling Bill soundly defeated.

End of story! Larry Baldock, Bob McCroskie and the rest of the spankers will now have to go off and find another way to legitimise the abuse of children.

And big ups to Sue Bradford. A great victory for our kids welfare!

Build your own referendumb

In the tradition of Build your own billboard (linked site from that post no longer active), you can now build your own referendum.

Here’s my effort:

smacking_over[EDIT: Original Image © Crown copyright http://bit.ly/electcopy%5D – this edit added due to stupid and draconian copyright law.

Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have got them going into the gallery yet, as it is still reporting as “Nothing here at the moment.”

Hopefully that will be fixed shortly. [EDIT: It now is fixed.]

BTW, don’t forget to Vote Yes, despite the stupidity of the question. A yes vote is a vote against child abuse.

Human Rights Commission backs child discipline law

So much for the scaremongering about “uncertainty” in the current section 59 of the Crimes Act coming from those advocating corporally punishing children. The Human Rights Commission has released a legal opinion condemning the previous law for its uncertainty and backing the current law.

Most significantly, the Commission’s legal opinion states:

Critics of the legislation consider that the law is now so uncertain that many parents don’t know what they can or can’t do and risk prosecution for every slap, no matter how trivial, administered to a child in their care.

Before it was amended, under s.59 parents, or those acting in loco parentis, were justified in using force “by way of correction” towards a child if the force was “reasonable in the circumstances”. The reasonableness of the force was a question of fact. Section 59 now allows parents (or someone acting in that role) to use reasonable force for a variety of purposes including (inter alia) the prevention of harm to the child or others or to perform the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting[7]. It does not, however, permit the use of force for the purpose of correction. There is also an avoidance of doubt provision, which confers discretion on the Police whether or not to prosecute if the offence is considered so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Legal certainty is particularly important in human rights law. Any legal constraints on a right must be sufficiently “accessible, precise and foreseeable” so that individuals are aware of the consequences of their actions. The guiding principle is that individuals must be able to regulate their conduct with a reasonable degree of certainty as to the legal consequences of acting one way rather than another. The earlier original version of s.59 which stipulated that force must be “reasonable under the circumstances” provided any better guidance than the present legislation. The subjectivity that inevitably dictated what parents considered permissible and the different interpretations of what is “reasonable” meant that parents were acquitted of disciplining their children even when they had used belts, hose pipes and pieces of wood to do so.

While the only way to import greater certainty would be to abolish s.59 entirely, even this may not be the complete answer since it will always be open to the police to decide whether or not to prosecute at common law. The Commission prefers a provision such as the amended s.59 which favours the child as the more vulnerable party.

Children are completely dependent on adults to give effect to their rights. Society has a duty to ensure those rights are respected.

Children have the same right to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity as everybody else including the right not to be subject to violence in the guise of corporal punishment.

While parents have responsibilities and duties, as well as the right, to provide appropriate direction and guidance, the wording of s.59 does not remove those rights, responsibilities or duties, but rather shapes how they should be exercised.

Another good reason to Vote Yes.

The referendumb

A Research New Zealand poll published in the Herald on Sunday shows that only 18% of those polled think the child discipline referendum is “a good use of taxpayer dollars”.

Given that it requires over 10% of voters to sign a petition to force a citizens initiated referendum, I guess I have to give some credit to Family First and their fellow spankers for their organisational ability – they managed to get the signatures of 56% of what is now the support base for the referendum on their petition.

Mind you, some will no doubt have been put off the cause in recent days by their ham-fisted publicity.

Interestingly, the report on the poll states:

Of all the demographic differences in the poll, the only significant difference was between the sexes.

Eighty per cent of female respondents believed the referendum was a waste of money, compared with 70 per cent of male respondents.

Read into thatwhat you want, I guess. It could mean women are more concerned about wasting public money that men, or it could mean that men are more into hitting kids than women.

Boscawen: Bring back the bash

ACT MP John Boscawen has been hunting around for something to do now the Electoral Finance Act has been repealed. What he’s come up with is Private Member’s Bill that proposes to amend section 59 of the Crimes Act.

Boscawen says:

The amendment will change the Act so that: it is no longer a crime for parents or guardians to use reasonable force to correct children; there are clear statutory limits on what constitutes reasonable force…

That sounds suspiciously like the amendment that National MP Chester Borrows attempted to introduce when Sue Bradford’s Bill that resulted in the current section 59 was before Parliament. The Borrows amendment would have defined force as unreasonable if it causes or contributes to harm that is more than transitory and trifling; involved a weapon, tool, or other implement; or is inflicted by a means that is cruel, degrading or terrifying. If none of those criteria were met, and the force was for the purpose of “correction” then it would be lawful.

What Borrows proposed, and Boscowen now appears to be proposing, would be thoroughly bad law. For a start, it attempts to define just how much violence against children is acceptable and conveys the message that it is okay to hit children. It would treat children as second class citizens who do not have the same protection in law against assault as adults do.

It attempts to define the degree of force that is reasonable by the physical outcome of the use of that force. It does not take into account that most parents cannot anticipate whether physical or mental injury is likely to be caused by the punishment they are administering before or at the time they administer it, and whether any injury caused is likely to be more than transitory and trifling. The 2006-07 NZ Health Survey revealed that:

One in 22 parents (4.5%, 3.8–5.2) considered physical punishment to be an effective form of discipline. Less than one in three parents who had used physical punishment in the previous four weeks considered it to be effective (29.8%, 24.9–34.8).

Given that the same survey revealed that 1 in 10 children had been physically disciplined in the four weeks before it was undertaken, thet leaves an awful lot of parents who discipline physically for reasons other than that they think it will be effective. Anger, frustration, loss of control – whatever the reason, these are parents who clearly haven’t thought through the outcome of the punishment before they administer it. It is facile for Borrows and Boscawen to expect that all parents will suddenly acquire that ability. Yet that is what their proposed amendments expect.

Under the Borrows and Boscawen proposals, parents would be able to get away with administering physical punishments several times a day on a daily basis as long as each instance did not cause injuries that were more than “transitory and trifling”. They take no account of the cumulative mental trauma this could cause to the child.

It is disappointing that John Boscawen appears to be trying to revive Chester Borrows’ amendment. There is no evidence to suggest that the current law is resulting in good parents being prosecuted for the occasional light smack, so why change it?