The smacking bill - what it says

THE CURRENT LAW
What Section 59 of the Crimes Act says about Domestic Discipline:
Every parent of a child and every person in the place of the parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards the child, if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances.

THE PROPOSED LAW - THEN
What Sue Bradford's bill said she when she introduced it in July 2005
Section 59 of the principal Act is repealed.
The stated purpose of the bill: "To abolish the use of reasonable force by parents as justification for disciplining children."

THE PROPOSED LAW - FROM SELECT COMMITTEE
What Sue Bradford's bill says now after 18 months in a select committee
Section 59 is repealed and substituted with the following section on parental control:
Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified is using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of:
a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

It then says
Nothing [in the above] or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

The stated purpose of the amended bill changed: "To make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction."

NATIONAL'S DOOMED AMENDMENT
National MP Chester Borrows' amendments to define the limits of unacceptable force were to have to be debated tonight but did not have the numbers to pass:

The use of force is unreasonable if it ... causes or contributes materially to harm that is more than transitory and trifling; or any weapon or tool is used; or it is inflicted by any mean that is cruel, degrading, or terrifying.

Wants the purpose of the bill changed to state: "To make better provision for the parental control of children by limiting the use of force for the purpose of correction."

JOHN KEY'S FAILED PROPOSAL
The National leader last week attempted but failed to find support from Sue Bradford for a proposal between Borrows and Bradford:
It would have adopted the Bradford purpose of the bill ... "abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction."

He proposed a new Section 59: "Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of a child is justified in lightly smacking the child in the course of their parenting duties if the smacking used was minor and inconsequential."

FINALLY AGREEMENT
Prime Minister Helen Clark uses the language of the Key proposal to give guidance to the police to ignore inconsequential breaches of the new law, with the additional wording:
To avoid doubt it is affirmed that 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.

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