Smacking case shows law works - Bradford

The MP behind the anti-smacking legislation, Sue Bradford, says a conviction under the controversial law shows it is working well.

A 33-year-old Masterton man was sentenced to nine months' supervision including counselling yesterday after pleading guilty to assaulting the boy by grabbing him by the shoulder and smacking him three times with an open hand. (Read story here)

Controversial legislation, which passed into law in May this year, removed the defence of reasonable force for parents who physically discipline their children.

The man, who has name suppression, smacked his eight-year-old son last month. The court was told he grabbed the boy by the shoulder bruising it and flipped him over his knee and smacked him before roughly sitting him back up.

Ms Bradford said she believed the sentence was appropriate.

"It was a light community based sentence. A sentence that tries to deal with his problem. It is likely the police and the court have been very careful, very sensitive in this case, because it is new law."

Social Development Minister Ruth Dyson said the charge could always have been laid.

"The arrest was for assault, that was the charge that was laid, what's changed in recent times with regard to the law is the repeal of section 59 means that there is no longer a defence of reasonable force against your child," she told reporters.

"So the charge of assault could always have been laid, there's no difference at all."

Independent MP Gordon Copeland - who broke away from United Future to form his own party opposing the smacking legislation, which he wants repealed - urged caution over the case.

"We don't know the full facts and history behind the case which is under court suppression orders. Was it assault or just parental smacking?"

However he said the legislation compelled police and the courts to act where previously it was up to families.

Family First New Zealand national director Bob McCoskrie (ccrct) called on the National Party to change the smacking law.

"John Key said that the law should not criminalise good parents for lightly smacking their children," Mr McCoskrie said.

"Here we have a young family, an expectant mother, a father attempting to do his very best, and a law which treats him as a criminal rather than a system that offers the support, encouragement and resources they may need."

Ms Bradford said it seemed to be an example of the law being implemented just as MPs who supported the bill intended.

She said Mr McCoskrie was still in denial that Parliament had overwhelmingly voted to pass the law.

"They don't like it, so of course they are unhappy to see a conviction like this... parents when they assault their child are liable for prosecution," Ms Bradford said.

"It will take some cases like this for it to dawn on some people that the law has changed and things have changed. It was not appropriate behaviour. It may be a parenting tool that Mr McCoskrie thinks is appropriate, but Parliament and the legal system says there is no legal defence if you beat, assault or spank you child."

Ms Bradford said violence against children was not acceptable from anyone.

"I think it is somewhat ironic that Mr McCoskrie and Christine Rankin are so strident about abuse against children, but defend the right of parents to use violence as a tool to bring up their children."

Ms Bradford said she had no information on whether there had been any other convictions.

The Social Development Ministry had reported no noticeable change in notifications to welfare agencies.

"The main feedback I have had so far is that people are more willing to report violence against children in public places. I think that is fantastic. It shows we are being sensitised and the law and the Government's (anti-violence) campaign are having an effect," Ms Bradford said.

Mr McCoskrie said they were being told of cases where children would say to their parents "you can't touch me or I'll tell the police".

"We are creating a paranoid parenting environment," Mr McCoskrie said.

"This case has confirmed Kiwi parents' worst nightmare."

- NZPA

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