Rebecca Quilliam

Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Colin Craig targets anti-smacking law

Colin Craig. Photo / Paul Estcourt
Colin Craig. Photo / Paul Estcourt

Political hopeful Colin Craig has made repealing a controversial anti-smacking law a condition of his support for a National-led Government after the election this year.

The Conservative Party leader told RadioLive today he smacked his 8-year-old daughter if she misbehaved, even though it could be considered against the law.

The so-called anti-smacking law which came into effect in 2007 removed the defence of reasonable force for parents prosecuted for assault on their children.

A 2009 referendum showed an overwhelming number of people did not believe a smack as part of good parental correction should be a criminal offence.

Mr Craig, who in 2009 funded a "march for democracy" in Queen St, in part to call for the legislation to be amended, said a change to the law would be a negotiating tool if the Conservative Party was in a position at the next election to form a coalition with National.

Mr Craig told APNZ the referendum "overwhelmingly" pointed to changes being needed in the law.

"I can't think of too many other laws that have ... had such an overwhelming vote by the public to get rid of it."

Mr Craig said most of the physical discipline he carried out on his child was a "flick of a finger on the back of a knuckle".

He said he did not believe that other people should break laws they did not agree with, such as people smoking cannabis.

The bill's architect, former Green MP Sue Bradford, said it was shameful that an aspiring politician was running an election campaign based on hitting children.

"I'm not surprised on his position on re-legalising child violence, but I am really saddened by the fact that he appears to be going into this election with changing the law on Section 59 as one of his main election platforms.

"He has even gone so far as to almost boast about hitting his own daughter. I think that's incredibly sad."

Prime Minister John Key, deputy Prime Minister Bill English and Justice Minister Judith Collins were unavailable for comment.

Child protection advocate organisation Jigsaw said it was opposed to any violence against children, even minor physical correction, which could escalate to child abuse.

"Frankly we're against any abuse, smacking or violence towards any child - it's just simply not acceptable," chief executive Sunny Wikiriwhi said.

The 2007 legislation was a "line in the sand" about how parents were to correct their children's behaviour, she said.

A police spokesman said they were satisfied that Mr Craig's comments on radio this morning did not amount to disclosure of an offence.

University of Auckland Associate Professor of Law Bill Hodge said even if police did not prosecute anyone could bring a private prosecution against Mr Craig if they believed he was breaking the law.

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Section 59 of the Crimes Act says:

* Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:

- preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person

- preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence

- preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour

- performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

* Nothing in (the above section) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

* To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Source: www.legislation.govt.nz

- APNZ

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