Family First NZ has labelled the anti-smacking law a “dog’s breakfast” after a police review revealed the majority of cases warranted no further action by police.
But the Green Party, which pushed for the law, says that while there is not always enough evidence to support some claims, at least people were bringing their concerns to the police’s attention.
The number of false allegations and occurrences where no reliable evidence could be found to support initial allegations nearly doubled, from 48 to 88, since the last six-monthly review period
Police spokeswoman Jane Archibald said the figure had increased as people became more aware of the law around smacking.
“Overall the number of incidents reported increased year on year.”
Police attended 500 child assault incidents during the review period of June 22 to December 21 last year. Twenty three involved smacking and 45 involved minor acts of physical discipline. Three adults were prosecuted for “smacking” - the most since the law came into effect five years ago, police said.
One man received nine months' supervision and 100 hours of community work for smacking his two sons on their legs in a public place, resulting in no injuries.
Two other men were also prosecuted with a charge of Assaults Child (manually).
The charge against one father, who allegedly slapped his daughter on her lower leg causing her to cry but leaving no injury, was subsequently withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.
There have now been eight prosecutions for a "smacking" event since the introduction of the Crimes (Substitution s59) Amendment Act in 2007.
The 10th police review of the amendment was released today.
Police investigated 23 acts of "smacking" and 45 "minor acts of physical discipline" during the review period.
There was an increase of five "smacking" incidents from the previous two reviews.
Police also prosecuted six people for "minor act of physical discipline" events during this period.
One mother who slapped her daughter in the face was sentenced to one years' supervision and 60 hours community work.
Nearly all of the "smacking" and "minor acts of physical discipline" events were referred to Child Youth and Family Services.
Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said the higher number of "smacking" events could be attributed to the more widespread use of the legislation by police and increased reports from the public.
amily First NZ national director Bob McCoskrie said the review would be cold comfort to parents.
“Unfortunately, this confusing law has been used as a weapon against good parents – rather than targeting rotten parents who are abusing their kids.”
Mr McCoskrie said the increase in false allegations of assault was a huge concern.
“It seems incredible that we are wasting time investigating hundreds of families who obviously don’t warrant that investigation.”
Parents had been stripped of a parenting technique which, when used appropriately, had been proven to effective and appropriate, he said.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the review showed the law was obviously working.
“Police are clearly using their discretion to pursue the cases they feel warrant prosecution.”
Ms Turei said the increase in the number of reports to police was a good thing.
“It means more people are keeping an eye out.”
A final report on the impact of the law is due to be completed by the end of the year.