Appeal Court Rescues ‘Honest’ Mum From Anti-Smacking Law

Media Release 3 June 2012
The National government said they would change the law if they saw good parents being criminalized
Family First NZ says that a mother had to appeal all the way to the Court of Appeal after voluntarily admitting using a few light smacks over the past couple of years, and that it sends a warning to all parents about what they admit to authorities regarding smacking. The mother was acquitted in the Court of Appeal.

“Despite the sales pitch from police and CYF, and Prime Minister John Key declaring that a smack is ok and wouldn’t result in prosecution, this mother’s experience proves that this is not the case and may actually result in assault convictions, loss of reputation, ruined career, financial hardship, and having to appeal all the way to the Court of Appeal in order to gain some common sense,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

When a relative reported the mother for asking her partner to smack their 8 year old on the bottom, mum unfortunately admitted that over the past 2-3 years, she had smacked her son on a couple of occasions. The court acknowledged that mum had sought help and assistance many times – but said that the fact that the mother was not angry but that the smack was a ‘considered decision’ was an aggravating factor!

When they appealed to the High Court, the partner was discharged without conviction. However, because of mum’s admission that she had used smacking in the past, her conviction was upheld in the High Court, because, according to the judgement, ‘it cannot be said it was a one-off incident in response to an extreme, highly unusual situation’ – despite her son presenting ‘unusual and difficult challenges’.

She then appealed to the Court of Appeal and won an acquittal. They acknowledged that mum had ‘sought appropriate expert assistance … and had utilised a range of non-physical measures to address the child’s behaviour’ and that the actions were at ‘the lower end of the scale’. They also held that the prior incidents were overstated by the District Court judge.

“John Key’s statement that light smacking is ok is essentially a load of crock. This mother has had her career damaged, a loss of income and lawyer’s fees, and caused irreparable damage to the family. She was honest, asked for help, went to the professionals, but they never came running to her with assistance – but were quick to prosecute,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The warning to all good parents from this case is that they need to be careful what they admit – even if their actions of a smack are deemed reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. The outcome of the anti-smacking law is only just coming home to roost,” says Mr McCoskrie.

“The National government said they would change the law if they saw good parents being criminalised. This is just one more example to add to the growing evidence.”



6 comments for “Appeal Court Rescues ‘Honest’ Mum From Anti-Smacking Law

  1. 2 June 2012 at 4:31 pm


    We live in a money centered society. Someone needs to add up what the law change has meant in terms of wasted money.

    I remember an incident down here when a Principal was prosecuted for supposedly “clipping a child around the ear”. By the time the case was finished over $1.25 Million dollars had been wasted in court time, Judges time, jury time, police & CYPS time, Education Board wages and salaries. The “grown up adults” were still arguing a year and a half after the kid had long forgotten the well deserved incident. The Principal was declared not guilty. BUT…
    Was it worth spending hours/days of valuable time $1.25 Million dollars to be exact to decide such a trivial matter?

  2. Shane Ponting
    2 June 2012 at 8:24 pm

    So either John Key thinks all these parents are BAD parents, or he’s a liar – there is no third option.

  3. Maureen
    3 June 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I have just graduated with a Diploma in Child Protection. At the last block course I had a real job keeping my mouth closed as the tutor talked about the antismacking law and gave the old line ‘no good parents have been prosecuted’, ‘the law is not anti smacking, its to stop children being hit’ and all the old speel. It really shows how anyone working in the area of child protection or with children in Government organistions are expected to ‘prove’ that the anti smacking law has been a success. Tutor also mentioned how those organisations that were anti the law have been proved wrong. I knew she was thinking of Family First. We are foster parents and to take a child into our home, we have to sign a form saying that we will not use physical punishment – we sign it because they are not our children anyway, however there is a lot of propaganda out there and we have to be discerning as to what we know to be the truth and what we know is not true.

  4. Peter Dobbs
    3 June 2012 at 1:25 pm

    So what do we do about it? Does anyone else feel helpless? We have been lied to by politicians and government agencies (agencies which still have the power to remove a child from your care even you are proven “not guilty”!), we have gone through a referendum with overwhelming public support, only to be ignored by our country’s decision makers, and now we are left victims with no course of redress. Hopefully in two years time enough NZers are still bitter enough over this blatant disregard of democratic process and principles that they will vote in a party that will support binding referenda. This is the only way to avoid power hungry politicians making a laughing stock out of us again in the future.

  5. Alex
    3 June 2012 at 9:38 pm

    I have seen John Key’s quote about changing the law several times but I haven’t heard this question put to him and receive a reply more substantial than “It’s not a priority at the moment” or words to that effect. Does anyone know if Mr Key has given a reasoned explanation for why his government is not abiding by his promise to change the law? If he claims it is working, does anyone know the basis he uses to support that claim?

  6. Chris O'Brien
    5 June 2012 at 6:40 pm

    We were warned that this sort of thing was going to happen. When are the government going to wake up to the fact that criminalizing the actions of parents in taking action to reasonably discipline their kids is going to create far more problems for society than it seeks to solve?

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