Police seek witnesses to park incident

Queenstown police want to identify a man who hit a child at a Lake Hayes Estate playground.

The man was at McBride Park Playground about 4.30pm Tuesday with two children aged between eight and 12 years old.

The children were playing on the flying fox when a woman saw the man twice strike one of the children before leaving in a silver or grey Toyota Rav 4. She reported the incident to police.

Constable Wayne Park said he believed the man and children were related. Park said it appeared the man was disciplining a boy with a smack.

The woman who reported the incident had not told them where on the body the child had been smacked, he said.

"That is why we want to hear from anyone who witnessed it or the people themselves _ so we can make a decision if it was anything more than a smack," he said.

A police spokesperson said there was no offence of "smacking" - such events were prosecuted using assault offences available to police.

At the request of the government, police had monitored the impact of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act from 2007, and that monitoring ended in April last year, the spokesperson said.

"(The monitoring) required police to examine every child assault prosecution to identify those which involved an element of smacking."

There were a total of eight prosecutions for a "smacking" event since the June 2007 law change.

In April last year, when the final review was made public, Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said there was a decrease in all types of incidents, but the overall trend from the first review to the 11th indicated a growth in the number of reports of child assault, and a slight increase in smacking and "minor acts of physical discipline" incidents.

"This suggests people have become increasingly comfortable reporting incidents. Due to the low prosecution rate, initial fears that 'good parents' would be criminalised continues to be proven wrong."

Anyone who can identify the people involved, including witnesses, should phone Constable Park on (03) 441-1600.

The Southland Times