Anti-smacking law hitting its targets

Last updated 12:00 14/01/2014

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OPINION: Basing his political party's potential bottom line on the repealing of the "anti-smacking" law was a smart move by Conservative leader Colin Craig.

That, of course, is not because it is a piece of legislation that necessarily needs repealing, but because Mr Craig will have struck a chord with many New Zealanders who failed to understand the law changes in the first place.

Clever politics 101.

Almost seven years on from the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007, Ministry of Social Development data shows fewer parents are being investigated for smacking their children.

The number dropped by almost a third over the past financial year, with 176 parents dobbed in to the ministry, down from 277 the year before. The sky hasn't fallen after all, and our courts or jails are not overflowing with well-meaning parents who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law due to this legislative change.

Mr Craig says police have carried out nearly 600 investigations into parents.

But police say they have prosecuted eight parents for smacking children since the law came in.

Seven of those parents had smacked their child in the head or face, while the eighth parent was discharged without conviction for striking the child on the hand.

None were charged with smacking the bottom of little Johnny after he was about to put a fork into a power outlet, as objectors absurdly predicted.

But the awareness this law change brought to our horrific child abuse statistics has arguably resulted in a greater discussion throughout our communities about what is OK and what is a step too far.

As an adult, if you hit another adult in the face or head, you open yourself up to being charged with assault.

Allowing people to hit children in the head is unacceptable.

A repeal of the "anti-smacking" bill - a catchy, media-spun name that actually missed the point of the legislation - sends the wrong message to those with child abuse tendencies.

The bill was not and never will be targeting good parents who use good discipline in their home.

It is about keeping children safe from people who could use a "reasonable force" loophole to justify assaulting their children.

ONE MORE THING: You know it is summer when the Striders Super Sevens starts up again. It is a great weekly event for the city - so long as you can put up with the traffic disruption it can cause from the mass influx of those attending. Be patient, and enjoy the long summer evenings.

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- Manawatu Standard


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