A mother who hit her 6-year-old daughter on the head when she swore at her says a judge was right to convict her of assault.
Alicia Merehana Reiri, 27, pleaded guilty in Masterton District Court yesterday to a charge of assaulting a child after two people told police they saw her slap her daughter in the face, in the car park of a Masterton primary school on Sunday afternoon.
After appearing in court, Reiri said she believed parents had a right to discipline their children, such as with a "little smack on the hand, or something", but that she had been wrong to hit her daughter on her head.
"I feel terrible and I'm going to have to live with that," she said.
Police prosecutor Garry Wilson told Judge Tony Walsh that Reiri and her daughter were walking side by side towards their car when Reiri hit the girl once on her face, causing her to cry and clutch the area.
Duty solicitor James Elliott, appearing for Reiri, said it was more like a "cuff over the ear" and was a one-off incident, arising from stress. Reiri had no previous convictions, he said.
"She accepts she over-reacted and acknowledges it was inappropriate, but there was no injury to the child."
Judge Walsh said he understood that Reiri may have been stressed, but that it was always dangerous to strike a child in the head. "Learn from this experience, and seek help if you need it," he told her.
Reiri wiped tears from her eyes during her appearance. Speaking after the case, she said it had been "a blur" and her main emotion was fear that she would lose custody of her daughter and a son, aged 18 months.
She said she never hit her children and the incident was a one-off, after her daughter swore at her.
"We were going for school photos, [she] was playing up . . . As we were coming out she swore at me, so I hit her ear, not hard because she would've swore at me more, or hit me back."
Three hours later, police knocked on her door. She said her daughter told police she only "tapped her ear", that she was not "slapped across the face", and that it did not hurt.
Reiri said it was right for people to report abuse, but questioned why police accepted what she called inconsistent and "exaggerated" witness accounts.
Judge Walsh convicted Reiri and ordered her to come up for sentencing if called upon within six months, and charged her court costs of $130. The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment.
A law change in 2007 removed a previous defence of "parental force for the purpose of correction" for parents charged with assaulting children.
Police define smacking as "a slap with the open hand on the buttocks or legs that does not result in any form of injury", and "minor act of physical discipline" as "a slap with the open hand on any other part of the body (including the face) that does not result in any injury".
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