Media Release 20 July 2011
Family First NZ says that lawyers have sent a clear warning to parents regarding the anti-smacking law – that parenting is now a risky business and parents should always seek legal advice when facing complaints about smacking, no matter how reasonable or appropriate they believe their actions to be.
“One of the sad aspects of the anti-smacking law is that it has done nothing to stop our horrendous rates of child abuse, but it has put good parents at the risk of criminalization for what is appropriate and non-abusive parenting, This has been backed up by the concerns expressed by, and experiences of, legal professionals,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ. “Anecdotal evidence received by Family First always backs up these concerns.”
“Prominent Wellington Barrister Greg King says that a smack, no matter how light, could certainly amount in law to an assault, whether or not it is justified or not depends on all of the relevant circumstances, but I repeat a parent who smacks a child risks being charged. This is in direct conflict to the assurances of the Prime Minister to kiwi parents.”
“Napier Barrister Phillip Ross warns that the prosecutor’s discretion not to charge does not give the Court a similar discretion. Auckland lawyer John Cagney says that not only is s59 expressed in such a way that prediction of outcome from particular action is impossible but the outcome is often dependent on the sympathies and prejudices of many of the officials involved in the prosecution and court process.”
“Wellington lawyer Michael Bott reiterates what all the lawyers have recommended – that no matter whether the parent thinks the actions were justified and reasonable, they should get legal advice before they open their mouth to police or CYF, and says we’ve got good parents who are being caught up. And that’s extremely sad. But it’s what we predicted,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“New Plymouth lawyer Barry Henderson says this regrettable situation has lead to incredible confusion with decent parents. And Auckland Barrister Evgeny Orlov warns that the anti-smacking legislation is the tip of an iceberg. The law allows the State to take away your children even if you show unacceptable levels of anger let alone smacking them.”
“It is disappointing that parenting in NZ has become a legal minefield because the politicians have failed to tackle the real causes of child abuse and have instead criminalized good and non-abusive parenting practice,” says Mr McCoskrie.
The full advice for parents is on the recently released www.protectgoodparents.org.nz website under “legal advice for parents’.