Parents Demand Apology For Inaccurate Smacking Review

Media Release 24 August 2012
A Timaru couple whose experience of the anti-smacking law was used in the Prime Minister’s report on Section 59 by psychologist Nigel Latta, and whose integrity and honesty was called in to question along with a number of other parents, now have the government paperwork to prove that the report is based on false information, and are demanding an apology.  

The parents’ experience has been featured both in NZ on the documentary “My Mummy’s A Criminal”, and on 60 Minutes in Australia. 

Parents Erik and Lisa Peterson whose children were removed from their home for 72 hours because of a botched CYF investigation over a smack have fought for over three years for the truth to be told. In their letter to Nigel Latta, they say:

“Your summary was based on our case file, and we took a great deal of issue with it. We also took great issue with you calling our integrity and honesty into question, albeit indirectly, on national television. You will by now have received a letter from the Ministry of Social Development containing a number of corrections to the error ridden file that you based that summary on. (Review panelist and MSD Head) Peter Hughes says your summary was accurate because you read our case file – the same case file which required a staggering two and a half pages of corrections! …. 

“Mr. Latta, the section 59 Review states that you found “the agencies responded appropriately and proportionately” in each of the cases. I cannot speak for anyone else, but our family was not treated appropriately or proportionately. CYF were responsible for at least three breaches of the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989 in the investigation of our family. Until very recently, they were also in breach of the Privacy Act. Hardly appropriate behaviour. We lost our children for 72 hours because the local workers couldn’t be bothered to meet on a Friday afternoon. Hardly an appropriate or proportional response. 

“It is my view that you owe our family an apology. I would suggest our experience is not unique among those families reviewed. It is most probable that you owe several families an apology. 

“With hope of closure after a three and a half year battle. Erik and Lisa Petersen” 

Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ adds: “The Latta review contained glaring errors including misrepresentation of basic facts, contained alleged actions of parents which were found to have no basis in court but which still presents the parent as being abusive, and failed to take into account the response of the court including discharges without conviction for what were previously claimed as serious assaults. The terms of reference of the Review failed to allow the voices of families who had been victims of the new law to be heard. It also failed to examine the outcomes of the investigations and whether the law was being applied as Parliament intended. It clearly is not.” 

A group of parents, whose experiences were included in the report, released a statement immediately after the Prime Minister and Nigel Latta presented the report in 2009, saying
“This is a one-sided report and fails to objectively hear the evidence from both sides. We reject the notion that we have misrepresented the facts to Family First, and that Family First has lied in their advocacy work in this area. Family First has been one of the few organizations willing to hear our side of the story and advocate for our concerns. We are not child abusers, yet this report continues to make that accusation, and does so without providing an opportunity for rebuttal or a full assessment of the facts. The effect of the experience of being investigated and in some cases prosecuted has had a huge effect on our families including our children, yet this has been minimized or ignored.” 

“The Peterson’s have sought to set the record straight. We will be encouraging other parents misrepresented in the report to do likewise.” 

“Official Information Act documentation requested by Family First seems to indicate that the review involved only two meetings of the full panel, ‘rides in a cop car’, sitting at the Police Communications Centre for a couple of hours, and misinterpreting and misrepresenting cases put forward by us,” says Mr McCoskrie. “New cases are being brought to our attention on a regular basis – many of which have been featured in the media.” 

The full evidence of the Petersen case and four others can be viewed here www.protectgoodparents.org.nz
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