Saturday, May 05, 2007

More parents may be charged according to Helen Clark.

May 3, 2007

More parents may be charged with assault for hitting their children when the new anti-smacking law is passed.

Police admit there may be more prosecutions but say a last minute amendment to the bill means parents who only lightly smack their child will not be pursued.

A Canterbury woman was in court this week facing charges of assaulting a teenager, and two years ago she was prosecuted two years ago for hitting a child with a horsewhip.

"Parents should be allowed to physically discipline their children where and when is appropriate," the woman says.

She was acquitted after arguing she had simply used reasonable force.

But the bill removing that defence will be passed in two weeks. Police will have the power to prosecute, but under a new amendment can decide against doing that if the offence is inconsequential.

"I think now they'll be able to prosecute those cases with good confidence they'll get a result," says Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Deputy Police Commissioner Rob Pope says the bar has been lowered. "And I think there is public acceptance around the fact that family, domestic violence will not be tolerated."

Police admit that may see more parents in court for hitting their children. But as a guide, they will only be pursuing those who hit a child hard enough to bruise or use wooden spoons or jug cords, not those who give a light smack.

Pope says there won't be a witchhunt. "And secondly people can have some confidence they won't be prosecuted for trivial or inconsequential uses of force."

The inclusion of that description in the bill was part of an unprecedented deal between two political enemies, both initially giving each other credit, although hours later their MPs were fighting over who had caved in.

National admits they didn't get exactly what they wanted. "I'd be the first to admit I don't think the law is perfect . It was a compromise," says Key.

But it's a compromise that will take the troublesome issue off the political agenda at least for now. And even the final vote in two weeks time should go smoothly with almost every MP now promising to support it.

Source: One News

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