A father who spanked his eight-year-old son on the bottom three times for misbehaving at school is one of the first to be convicted of assault under the law against smacking.
The Masterton man was sentenced to nine months' supervision yesterday after admitting he had grabbed his son by the shoulder, held him on his knee and hit him with an open hand.
Green MP Sue Bradford has welcomed the conviction, saying the case is a good example of the May law change working as intended.
The controversial legislation removed the defence of reasonable force for parents who physically discipline their children.
But opponents say the conviction is a disgrace.
Family First national director Bob McCroskrie said parents had every reason to be concerned.
"It's the first of what's going to be many cases of the law targeting good parents. Our predictions have come true."
Masterton District Court judge Anthony Walsh told the man, whose wife is expecting their fourth child: "While you may have gotten away with this in the past, it is a case of not now."
The father, 33, who has name suppression to protect his son's identity, smacked his son on October 29. He had returned home from work to hear that his son had caused some problems at school.
The boy was in his bedroom and his father decided to confront him about his behaviour, the court was told.
Becoming frustrated, the father grabbed his son's clothes at the shoulder and pulled him on to the bed.
The father then flipped the boy over his knee and smacked him three times on the bottom with an open palm, before roughly sitting him back up.
The eight-year-old had bruising to his shoulder, the court was told.
The boy's mother, pregnant with the couple's fourth child, is understood to have taken a photograph of the bruise and shown it to a relative, who told police several days later.
The father admitted he had lost his temper. He refused to comment as he left court.
Judge Walsh, hearing the case in Masterton's newly established domestic violence court, said the smacking law change had redefined the way old attitudes toward disciplining children were viewed.
"Our law was recently amended to make it clear that children should be protected. There are other ways that must be taken to discipline children, short of violence, and that means time out and loss of privileges."
Judge Walsh told the father: "A lot of us are parents, we know children can be challenging - but we are the adults."
The father, who pleaded guilty to assault, and his wife had already sought help with anger management, parenting skills and relationship counselling before yesterday's sentencing.
He was sentenced to nine months' supervision - which means the state will now pay for the counselling.
The law took effect in June, after National inserted a clause stating police should not prosecute inconsequential smacking, though guidelines for officers do not define "inconsequential".
Police were told by their bosses that it would be a matter for the courts to determine in test cases.
Ms Bradford said she was pleased the case had been prosecuted.
"Hitting a child is an assault and there is no longer the protection that there used to be where a case like this would never go before the courts."
Police national headquarters had no figures on smacking-related convictions since June. A report is being prepared.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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