Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lucia Anti-smacking law review - still trying to convince us

I've been listening to the talking heads on NewsTalkZB telling us that the anti-smacking law is working, that the doom and gloom sayers were wrong, that parents aren't being rounded up and prosecuted en masse for smacking, that there has only been one prosecution (in the last six months, bringing the total to three to date), so it's all good. And that one prosecution was discharged without conviction. The police are saying the way the law is working is proof that they are able to exercise discretion.

I would have thought that one prosecution for smacking was was one prosecution too much.

Last year John Key said, "I've laid out the way I want to approach this, I think if the law doesn't work, in other words if the law starts taking criminal cases and criminalises parents for lightly smacking their children, I'll change the law."

I do find it interesting that there is no detail given in the news item on the one smacking case that was prosecuted in this current period.

Was the smacking light? A discharge without conviction would indicate so. Ah, but does a discharge without conviction "criminalise"? I would say it would, but legally speaking I don't know if this is the case.

No information is given of all the cases the police investigated and decided not to go any further. What were all these families put through? Obviously not important.

10 comment(s):

Anonymous said...

I was very much against removing the defence S59, I still think it's madness to criminalise good parents who use light physical discipline. However... if families with issues accessed professional help because of this law then I think that is a positive thing.

If there are familes who would have given their kids a "hiding" when they did something wrong who now can get help to improve their child's behaviour using other (better) strategies then I can't complain about that. Maybe the involvement with CYFS helped that family function better? I certainly hope so.

I still think that removing S59 hasn't stopped parents killing their kids and that is where we really need to target assistance, although I'm not sure how we do that. One thing I do wish we would have more of is drug and alcohol substance abuse help.

Lucia Maria said...

Now some idiot on the radio is saying the furore against the smacking law was really a dissatisfaction with Helen Clark than anything else!


What we do is encourage people to choose their lifelong partners wisely and to commit (marriage) before having sex. Children raised in cohabiting homes are in far more danger than those raised in homes with a married parents.

Anonymous said...

LM - I agree but how?

Lucia Maria said...


Ultimately the only thing that will really work is to convert everyone to the Catholic Faith. We have everything worked out, even down to the dangers of contraception in marriage. But in lieu of that, get the general ideas out there.

Everyone now thinks it's ok to try before you buy (or have an uncommitted relationship to see if you are compatible). While this can work sometimes, quite often doesn't. That idea needs to get out there, and the only way I know to do that is to blog.

I.M Fletcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
I.M Fletcher said...

Family First Press Release 30 September 2010

Smacking Stats Trivialise Real Impact on Parents

Family First NZ says that the latest police statistics on the anti-smacking law trivialize the real impact of the antismacking law and fail to reflect the widespread confusion over the effect of the law, the impact on parenting and parental authority, the continued opposition to the law, and the ongoing failure to target and tackle actual child abuse. ‘What these figures do show is that almost 350 families have gone through the trauma of an investigation, temporary removal of children, and potential court case for a smack or minor act of physical discipline, and 19 of these families have been taken to court,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

“And this review does not even touch on the huge number of families investigated by CYF, children temporarily removed, and ex-partners using the law to their benefit in custody cases.” “It is also incredible that the police refer to the Latta review undertaken at the end of the year, despite this review being exposed as misleading, failed to meet its terms of reference, and missed out or ignoring key information.” “The fact that over 95% of 20,000 respondents to a recent online poll continue to oppose the law shows that the police sales pitch isn’t working and the politicians’ denial of the reality of how this law is affecting parents isn’t fooling anyone. The politicians had the chance to decriminalise good parenting just last month – but they blew it. They continue to ignore the reality of parenting.”

Family First is aware of a number of more recent cases where parents have been investigated, prosecuted and/or had children removed for removing children to Time Out, or using reasonable force to deal with defiant behaviour and tantrums. “The real tragedy in these figures is that the law has done absolutely nothing to tackle our child abuse death rate and rates of physical, sexual and emotional abuse in dysfunctional homes with rotten parents.”

“We all desperately want the real causes of child abuse tackled - but good parents deserve to be respected and left alone to continue raising great kiwi kids. At the moment, they’re being told how to parent – under the threat of potential criminalisation and intervention by CYF. And because they’re law abiding citizens, they’re trying to do their best.” “Parents deserve better than a law which even John Key says is a complete and utter dog’s breakfast, badly drafted, and extremely vague,” says Mr McCoskrie. ENDS

ZenTiger said...

Before the anti-smacking law people were also prosecuted for hitting children, where it looked to be a case of physical assault, rather than a little smack. So in one sense, what's changed?

What has changed with this law is an assumption that any smack is equivalent to child abuse, and that puts parents who smack rarely and as a considered action (ie not in anger) are de facto child abusers, who have to rely on the State to "let them go" as distinct from "find them innocent". This then empowers the state to act in situations they have no real jurisdiction.

These fundamental changes cannot be measured by a few visible court cases, but only in the secret ( hidden from public scrutiny) actions of the Child Youth Family Services. We will only learn of such abuse of power years after the case, which by then is far too late in the matter of individual justice.

Here's an example of something we would not normally find out about CYFS making a stuff up, which directly leads to another tragedy - the death of a baby:

CYFS apologising for half their mistake

Anonymous said...

Zen - it's very easy to criticise, it's hard to be constructive. CYFS didn't change the law, the MPs did. How should we reform CYFS so that they help families better? I would suggest better funding and more staff who have greater amounts of training but is there anything you woud add to that?

LM - I find aspects of modern society very hard to take. For example "Two and Half Men" is on at 7:30pm before the watershed. I loathe the messages it sends to people about sexuality and I have gained that information from the advertising clips. I wonder why we have strayed so far from healthy sexual morality, but I think the major suspect is hormonal contraception. We have separated sex from it's normal consequences - babies. That means recreational sex has become acceptable with all that this implies; marriage is optional and not about forming the next generation, sex before marriage doesn't matter at long as you don't get an STI, anything between consenting adults is fine.

I.M Fletcher said...

Yes, I just don't understand how anyone adult could find Two and a Half men funny. Charlie Sheen seems to be enjoying slumming it. The jokes are so juvenile. Any American comedy these days seems to be based on sexual innuendo - some more than others. There seems to be a lack of clever wit.

As for CYFS, I've heard stories in the past of parents going to court to get their children back from CYFS, winning, and CYFS just not taking any notice of the court order and keeping the kids anyway.

ZenTiger said...

@Muerk, I agree it is easy to criticise. So I'd have to say that I'm not sure that CYFS owe the family an apology for what they apologised over, although I think they need to take on some of the blame for the first incident. If they are going to remove kids from families because they think those families can't do a good job, then they HAVE TO do a better job.

Equally, in weighing up complicated cases around returning children, the balance has to tip in favour of the parents when the situation is not clear, because if the default is to always withhold children to avoid criticism or apologies, then the State will simply keep 100% of them.

As for what what I improve with CYFS? An independent body with ability to receive complaints from 'clients' of CYFS and investigate them to a high degree, in such a way as to guarantee client protection, and with the power and authority to shine sunlight into the most private of files and case notes, and have mechanisms for cross-checking the "facts" that are stored in them. That would be very tricky to set up, but that's exactly why we have clever people.

Equally, this body would also have the ability to note some of the outstanding successes from CYFS perhaps, because there is also a lot of good work being done, and perhaps we need to hear more about that also.

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