Police say they are continuing to apply discretion on the controversial child discipline law after attending a record number of complaints in the second half of last year.

A fall in the number of reports for smacking was counterbalanced by increases in "minor acts of physical discipline" and "other child assaults", figures released today show.

The total number of offences under the amendment to Section 59 of the Crimes Act reported between June 23 and December 21 last year was 444, up from the previous record of 16.

"The findings of this review are consistent with our previous monitoring. It shows police continue to apply their discretion in these cases," Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope said.

"There have been just four prosecutions for smacking events since the amendment was enacted in June 2007. This suggests the practice guidelines on this matter issued by the commissioner continue to work well."

There were 18 reports of smacking in the six-month period to last December 31, down from the record high of 25 for the previous six months, and one led to a conviction and sentence of six months' supervision for a smack on their child's buttocks which resulted in no physical injury.

Nine other reports of smacking resulted in a warning and eight resulted in some other action or no further action.

Reports of "minor acts of physical discipline" were up from 38 to 45, the third highest recorded in the eight reviews.

The period also saw six prosecutions for such offences. Three resulted in sentences of supervision, the most serious a sentence of 13 months' intensive supervision after a child was slapped around the head twice and threatened with a further physical assault.

A fourth offender was ordered to come up for sentence if called upon, a fifth is awaiting sentence, while the sixth is yet to enter a plea.

There were 348 reports of "other child assaults", while a further 33 reports made under the Act had no offence disclosed.

"Although the total number of section 59 events is the highest recorded, it is unclear whether this is because the number of actual physical assaults is increasing or because more incidents are being reported to police," Mr Pope said.

Family First national director Bob McCoskrie, a staunch opponent of the law, said the report did not show how parenting confidence was being reduced.

"What these figures do show is that since the law was passed, more than 400 families have gone through the trauma of an investigation for a smack or minor act of physical discipline, and 26 of these families have been prosecuted through the courts," he said.

"But this review does not even touch on the huge number of families investigated by Child Youth and Family, children temporarily removed, and ex-partners using the law to their benefit in custody cases."

Reviews of the law will continue on a six-monthly basis until June 2012.

- NZPA