PM Should Heed Legal Advice on Smacking Law


13 December 2009

PM Should Heed Legal Advice on Smacking Law

Family First NZ says that an expert legal opinion on the smacking law published in the latest NZ Law Journal is confirmation that John Key needs to amend the law, not the guidelines, in order to deliver what he has told NZ parents.

The article by Prof Richard Ekins from Auckland University entitled “’Light Smacking’ and Discretion” says

  • the 2007 Act makes it quite clear that parents who lightly smack their children for the purpose of correction commit a criminal act – contrary to the ‘sales pitch’ by politicians. It also criticises a number of MP’s for the way they have tried to present the effects of the new law
  • any Police policy not to prosecute light smacking is unlawful.  ‘If the Government wishes to protect “good parents” from the criminal law then it cannot rely on s 59(4) but must instead invite Parliament to enact legislation specifying when and how reasonable force – a light smack – for the purpose of correction is justified.’
  • ‘The Police guidelines for the new s 59 demonstrate a tension between the presumption that light smacking of a child is inconsequential – effectively the Government’s position – and the Police Family Violence Policy’ – namely zero tolerance
  • the police guidelines indicate that a parent who lightly smacks their child on more than one occasion or who smacks more than one of their children should be automatically prosecuted
  • ‘Reasonable persons accept a duty to obey the law and hence are concerned that the law be reasonable. Because the Act makes it unlawful – a criminal offence – for any person to act in this way, the prospect of being accused, convicted, and punished, while not unimportant, is of secondary interest.’

“John Key promised ‘comfort’ for parents, but it’s not comforting when he ignores 87% in a referendum, and retains a law which he admits is a ‘dog’s breakfast’, badly drafted, and extremely vague. Legal experts agree with him. It is a badly written law as it stands,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“As the Ekins article says, good parents’ primary concern is that they operate under reasonable laws because they accept a duty to obey the law. They may obey the law but that doesn’t mean they agree with it.”

“The PM said earlier this week that a light smack is ok and shouldn’t be criminalised – a view shared by more than 80% of the country.  But that’s not what the law says, as proved by this article,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“Mr Key should take legal advice – not political advice – and amend the law to deliver what he wants, thereby giving parents certainty that they are parenting within the law. Then perhaps we can start to focus on the real causes of child abuse and the rotten parents who are abusing their kids and don’t care what the law says.”


For More Information and Media Interviews, contact Family First:

Bob McCoskrie – National Director  Mob. 027 55 555 42

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