A Christchurch father was "furious" at being imprisoned and losing custody of his child after being charged with assaulting his son.
The father, whose name is suppressed, was given a discharge without conviction on Friday in a case that could have been a test of New Zealand's anti-smacking laws.
The father was held in custody for at least one night and separated from his four-year-old boy for two weeks under bail conditions that were later relaxed by the court.
"He was furious originally because he was in prison for GBH [grievous bodily harm] and lost custody of his child and all because he was trying to calm a child," defence counsel Jonathan Eaton said.
Police alleged the man slapped his son on the head in North Hagley Park in January, but Eaton said the father was trying to calm a major tantrum. The child has since been diagnosed with a severe behavioural problem.
"He was originally charged because a witness thought she had seen a slap on the head. The witness had no understanding of the problems of the child. It was only later that more details emerged that painted it in a very different light."
He also said police were reluctant to withdraw charges in relation to the new anti-smacking laws.
"The police are acutely aware that if they lay the charges the case may well attract quite a bit of publicity, therefore they are obliged to look at it pretty carefully before they move on it," Eaton said. "For them to turn around at that stage and withdraw seems to be a big ask for the police. They are more comfortable with a discharge. They go through the court process and don't oppose the discharge. Why did they have to go through the entire process?"
Inspector Derek Erasmus said police acted appropriately.
"Based on what the witnesses said, our decision was totally appropriate at the time. We made sure we had appropriate evidence. There was plenty of evidence and witnesses at the time and I am entirely happy with that. There was no new evidence on what happened at the time," he said.
Erasmus said he was happy with the outcome.
"We were happy with the outcome. Interventions with other agencies were put in place and the court decided that was appropriate."
Family First national director Bob McCroskie said the family was "taken through hell" by the court case.
- © Fairfax NZ News