Media Release 3 June 2012
The National government said they would change the law if they saw good parents being criminalized
Family First NZ says that a mother had to appeal all the way to the Court of Appeal after voluntarily admitting using a few light smacks over the past couple of years, and that it sends a warning to all parents about what they admit to authorities regarding smacking. The mother was acquitted in the Court of Appeal.
“Despite the sales pitch from police and CYF, and Prime Minister John Key declaring that a smack is ok and wouldn’t result in prosecution, this mother’s experience proves that this is not the case and may actually result in assault convictions, loss of reputation, ruined career, financial hardship, and having to appeal all the way to the Court of Appeal in order to gain some common sense,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.
When a relative reported the mother for asking her partner to smack their 8 year old on the bottom, mum unfortunately admitted that over the past 2-3 years, she had smacked her son on a couple of occasions. The court acknowledged that mum had sought help and assistance many times – but said that the fact that the mother was not angry but that the smack was a ‘considered decision’ was an aggravating factor!
When they appealed to the High Court, the partner was discharged without conviction. However, because of mum’s admission that she had used smacking in the past, her conviction was upheld in the High Court, because, according to the judgement, ‘it cannot be said it was a one-off incident in response to an extreme, highly unusual situation’ – despite her son presenting ‘unusual and difficult challenges’.
She then appealed to the Court of Appeal and won an acquittal. They acknowledged that mum had ‘sought appropriate expert assistance … and had utilised a range of non-physical measures to address the child’s behaviour’ and that the actions were at ‘the lower end of the scale’. They also held that the prior incidents were overstated by the District Court judge.
“John Key’s statement that light smacking is ok is essentially a load of crock. This mother has had her career damaged, a loss of income and lawyer’s fees, and caused irreparable damage to the family. She was honest, asked for help, went to the professionals, but they never came running to her with assistance – but were quick to prosecute,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“The warning to all good parents from this case is that they need to be careful what they admit – even if their actions of a smack are deemed reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances. The outcome of the anti-smacking law is only just coming home to roost,” says Mr McCoskrie.
“The National government said they would change the law if they saw good parents being criminalised. This is just one more example to add to the growing evidence.”