Get teen out of bed with water says judge
BY MARTY SHARPE AND BERNARD CARPINTER
A judge has suggested a mother throw a glass of water over her daughter next time she refuses to go to school.
Judge Lindsay Moore made the suggestion in Napier District Court yesterday sentencing Ataraiti Watson on a truancy charge.
Watson pleaded guilty to failing to ensure her daughter Atareta, 14, attended an alternative education course for 25 days between January and May without excuse.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of a $300 fine.
Watson's lawyer, Mike McAleer, said she had tried getting her daughter out of bed, without success.
"I indicated that section 59 of the Crimes Act gave her a defence to pull her daughter out of bed and to drag her out to the street so she could be picked up," Mr McAleer said.
The judge replied: "Why indulge in such violence when a small container of cold water will do the same job. There are more ways than one to get a reluctant youngster out of bed ... Bedclothes soon dry out in the Hawke's Bay sun if you put them on the line."
Mr McAleer said Atareta would attend school next year. Watson was convicted and discharged.
Judge Moore said: "The thing about bringing children into the world means you've got to take responsibility for them. Sometimes it means you can't take the easy way out."
Speaking outside court, Mr McAleer said he was referring to the controversial "anti-smacking law", which led to section 59 of the Crimes Act being amended.
"Under section 59 ... a parent is justified in using reasonable force – and it has to be reasonable – to prevent a child engaging in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence. Truancy is a criminal offence, that's why Mrs Watson was charged," he said.
Barnardos national chief executive Murray Edridge said he assumed the judge's comment was a joke, but he still found it extremely unhelpful. Parents needed to be sensible and appropriate in their discipline, he said.
"Discipline other than physical can still cause harm to the relationship between the parent and the child – psychological pressure, for example.
"Throwing cold water at a child might not come under section 59 but it is still unhelpful."
Family First director Bob McCoskrie said the case showed the stress on parents caused by the section 59 legislation.
"Parents are telling us that kids are saying, `You can't tell me what to do, you can't touch me'."
However, Law Society family violence committee chairwoman Ingrid Squire said she had found no evidence that fear of section 59 was hindering parents' ability to discipline their children.
Children's Commissioner John Angus said a child's reluctance to attend school was usually not best dealt with in the heat of the moment.
"When your child is 14, trying to use physical force doesn't achieve anything. It's a really risky thing to do. It's better to have a discussion at a time when it will be constructive."
- Dominion Post