Children subjected to 'regime of violent discipline'

A solo father who smacked his children and hit them with a wooden spoon has accepted it was the wrong way to parent them, his lawyer says.

The Porirua man, 40, who cannot be named, assaulted his son using an open hand, and regularly hit him round his legs with the spoon, Wellington District Court was told yesterday.

During one incident, the boy tried to cover himself with a blanket but was hit with the spoon, leaving significant bruises.

Another time the boy tried to run away from him and was hit by the door as the father tried to shut it, ending up with a head injury.

Judge Denys Barry also said the man smacked his daughter on the legs with an open hand and at least once round the head.

His lawyer, Craig Smith, said he had now accepted it was the wrong way to parent his son and daughter, who were no longer in his care.

Judge Barry said the man had gone to extraordinary lengths to rehabilitate himself and he had no doubt he would no longer resort to force.

The man pleaded guilty to two representative charges of assault on a child under 14 using an open hand, three representative charges of assault using a wooden spoon, and one charge of injuring with reckless disregard for the safety of the child.

Judge Barry sentenced him to five months' home detention and 200 hours' community work.

"It was a regime of violent discipline over nearly two years. You subjected them to a reign of harsh and painful assaults.

"It was not just about hitting the children but about the climate of fear in which they lived." The judge said the man was now attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous almost daily. "You must be greatly commended for getting a hold on your problems and committing yourself for getting beyond them. It's a remarkable change."

The Crimes Act was amended in 2007, removing the defence of reasonable force for parents charged with assaulting their children. It gave police discretion over whether they prosecute.

In a review last year, police said 46 prosecutions had been brought for "minor acts of discipline" - slapping a child on the face or any other part of the body aside from the buttocks or legs. In addition, eight prosecutions were brought for "smacking" on the buttocks or legs.

The Dominion Post