Change may force parents to think twice

NZ Herald May 04, 2007
Parents will be breaking the law when they smack their children, but the new bill will not see a rash of mums and dads hauled before the courts, law experts say. Sue Bradford?s anti-smacking bill is set to pass into law after the National Party agreed to a compromise that enshrined the police?s discretion to prosecute – powers they already have.”What the last-minute amendment achieved was probably no more than providing comfort to police and to parents in circumstances where the force was minimal that there was no benefit to be obtained by prosecution,” said Jonathan Krebs, convenor of the Law Society?s criminal law committee. The same cases of bona fide child abuse brought before the court under the old law will be same ones that appear under the new law, said Mr Krebs. “There?s been a lot of hype about the police waiting to pounce in the supermarket for the mother who smacks the child?s leg when he?s tried to jump out of the trolley and hurt himself. In reality, I don?t expect those will ever see the light of a courtroom.”What this might force parents to do over time is to think about other parenting options, other discipline options. I guess that?s a good thing.” Parents who smack would still be breaking the law. “Technically they always have been. In the past it?s been easier for them to establish a justification for it … There is no justification any more for it. What exists now is this argument that if it?s trifling or inconsequential then the police don?t have to prosecute.”