Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Making it up on smacking

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  • Hamish,

    He's straight out of the school of it just has to sound truthy. Which is why he's getting cut up left and right.

    But I worry that at least 5% of the population just doesn't care that it's not true because they still think it's right.

    The A.K. • Since Nov 2006 • 155 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Yesterday the Herald had the headline "Colin Craig: I smack my children", which was then corrected to "child" when it was realised he has just the one.

    But that made a big difference. "Children" is quite non-specific, but when there's mention of the Craig daughter, the focus is on this one little girl. The idea of Colin Craig smacking a small girl is quite unpleasant.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi,

    I'd love to know how many NZ First voters Craig is hoping to steal from Winston. This is a red meat issue for them (and they're impervious enough to facts to be swayed.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    More evidence that Colin Craig is a very sophisticated parody – taking Stephen Colbert’s character to an even more ridiculous extreme.

    Truthiness indeed.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Does it necessarily follow that thinking smacking is wrong, or potentially (or always) harmful means that the solution is found in the criminal law?

    What does the potential imposition of a criminal record for parents like Colin Craig (except in all likelihood, poorer and browner) add that helps this situation?

    Many people who were smacked growing up think: my life would have been better if I wasn’t smacked, so I’m not going to smack my children. But who among us thinks: I was smacked growing up, and my life would have turned out better if my mother had been investigated by police for assaulting me, or been charged and convicted for it?

    This will sometimes be true, but just because smacking is something we might agree as a society is something there should be less of, why is the criminal law seen as the way to achieve this? And, overall, is using the criminal law as an agent of social change in this way – like we do with many other things, including marijuana use – likely to cause more harm than good in this instance?

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    My understanding is that the primary justification for the law change wasn't to criminalise parents, but was to remove a codified defense that could be (and was) used in cases of genuine child abuse.

    While I haven't been paying close attention, I don't think we have any parents now with criminal records for what we'd all generally agree is "a smack".

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Finlay Macdonald, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Agree with our learned friend - the reform would have been better as a simple removal of the defence of "reasonable force" in clear abuse cases. The moment it became about social improvement it descended into a talkback swamp of prejudice and mutual contempt.

    Since Apr 2013 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Dylan Reeve,

    My understanding is that the primary justification for the law change wasn’t to criminalise parents, but was to remove a codified defense that could be (and was) used in cases of genuine child abuse.

    That was certainly the justification (or one of the justifications). The law change went further than that, however.

    While I haven’t been paying close attention, I don’t think we have any parents now with criminal records for what we’d all generally agree is “a smack”.

    I thought maybe one (or two?), although that may have been charges, and then a discharge without conviction. But again, if the intention of the law isn't to criminalise parents who smack, it was an odd choice to pass a law that makes them criminals.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    And, overall, is using the criminal law as an agent of social change in this way – like we do with many other things, including marijuana use – likely to cause more harm than good in this instance?

    It's a very, very big stretch to make that comparison. There are around 5000 prosecutions for non-supply cannabis offences annually -- and police use of discretion is diminishing. The harms of such an approach have been noted by two Parliamentary select committee inquiries and the Law Commission. The same can't be said of the removal of the Section 59 defence. By contrast, police discretion seems to be used extensively in the case of smacking -- there have been eight prosecutions since the law change.

    Also, there is no obvious child victim in cannabis use.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Stewart,

    We used to hear stories about parents who had beaten their children with a length of hose or similar, which was deemed acceptable by the courts as 'reasonable force'. This is no longer acceptable which is a good thing.

    Surely the long term goal is for a change in attitudes about parental violence against children, and this requires having a clear line which shouldn't be crossed.

    Pt Chev • Since Feb 2012 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I thought maybe one (or two?), although that may have been charges, and then a discharge without conviction.

    From one of the links in the post:

    Police say they have prosecuted just eight parents for smacking children in the five years since the law came in. Seven of those parents had smacked their child in the head or face.

    The eighth parent was discharged without conviction for striking the child on the hand. Police said they were also being called to fewer smacking incidents though they stopped counting smacking prosecutions after the Government's five-year review process came to an end.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    So, not to put to fine a point on it Colin Craig made a string of untrue statements (whether out of malice or sheer ignorance, I don't really know) and the media just transcribed the press release. Yet again, Russell does more basic fact checking in his home office than the alleged news outlets put together.

    I don't know about anyone else, but this shit is getting tedious.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Lott,

    Colin Craig often sounds like he's making up stuff as he goes along, or at least he sounds like he's forming his opinion about something as he is speaking. This morning I thought he sounded much better informed. Turns out he was in fact making stuff up as he went along. I am really hoping no-one takes him seriously...

    Waitakere • Since Aug 2009 • 111 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    By the same argument, shouldn't minor assault on adults also be legalised on the grounds that a criminal prosecution is unlikely to help the situation for either party?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Richard Stewart,

    Surely the long term goal is for a change in attitudes about parental violence against children, and this requires having a clear line which shouldn’t be crossed.

    The consequences of which can be a criminal charge, including a bail condition that you not associate with your children (who are witnesses) while the trial process is ongoing. Which, if you are a single parent, means their homelife is massively disrupted etc.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    By the same argument, shouldn’t minor assault on adults also be legalised on the grounds that a criminal prosecution is unlikely to help the situation for either party?

    Mostly, I'm talking about the consequences for the child, of a criminal conviction of a parent who has smacked.

    If I get into a minor scuffle in Courtenay Place, the person who I am fighting is not likely to suffer long-term if I have a conviction.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Does it necessarily follow that thinking smacking is wrong, or potentially (or always) harmful means that the solution is found in the criminal law?

    Craig's argument is, literally, that NZ's "anti-smacking law" increases child abuse. That's a much stronger claim than you're making, and one that is rightly being pilloried.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 864 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    Craig’s argument is, literally, that NZ’s “anti-smacking law” increases child abuse. That’s a much stronger claim than you’re making, and one that is rightly being pilloried.

    It is certainly a different claim. I haven't seen evidence on the position you describe Craig as advancing, but it strikes me as an only probably false, not obviously false.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    The consequences of which can be a criminal charge, including a bail condition that you not associate with your children (who are witnesses) while the trial process is ongoing. Which, if you are a single parent, means their homelife is massively disrupted etc.

    But, Graeme, once again this is not an academic exercise. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would've preferred their parents to be arrested and prosecuted, and there are plenty of kids for whom a massive disruption of their homelife is precisely what is needed to give them a chance of getting out of an abusive situation.

    If Colin Craig is being honest about how he disciplines his daughter, then he is not in any danger of acquiring a criminal conviction and his homelife is not going to be disrupted. But as Richard Stewart points out above, we used to have parents successfully using the old Section 59 to get away with quite horrific abuse.

    Oh, and for anybody following the link to that Guardian article: do not read the comments, or at the very least, comment #1 is highly likely to be triggering for some (I read the first sentence then immediately scrolled upwards).

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Don't most laws (with the exception of things like murder which is challenging to do just a little of) have an end where it's not worth prosecuting and discretion is required? Why should this law be any different than the laws around speeding, or theft, or other forms of assault?

    How would we go about quantifying in law how much hitting is too much? Should we go by how hard or how often or by the tool used or bruises left?

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Mostly, I’m talking about the consequences for the child, of a criminal conviction of a parent who has smacked.

    All seven of the parents convicted in the past five years struck their children in the head or face. Surely we don't want the law to express tacit approval of that kind of assault on a child? And is it not likely that failing to act strongly against such assaults puts the child in future peril?

    If I get into a minor scuffle in Courtenay Place, the person who I am fighting is not likely to suffer long-term if I have a conviction.

    A better analogy would surely be you striking someone because you don't like their attitude or behaviour. You wouldn't get to argue "reasonable force", especially if you struck them in the head.

    It might also be argued that you're more likely to punch someone in the head if you were likely to get away with it.

    I suspect we do agree that there is a limit to comparisons between parental actions and adult assault. All parents use their strength to do things to children - - picking them under protest, for example -- that might constitute assault on an adult. But what the law says now is that you can't use physical force as punishment.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Russell Brown,

    All seven of the parents convicted in the past five years struck their children in the head or face.

    Nope. All seven of the parents convicted in the first five years after the law change, at which point police stopped recording. There aren't data on what has happened in the last 18 months.

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    Nope. All seven of the parents convicted in the first five years after the law change, at which point police stopped recording. There aren’t data on what has happened in the last 18 months.

    You are correct on this point.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    But, Graeme, once again this is not an academic exercise.

    No it's not. I'm talking about actual cases I know of in the criminal justice system where this happened (a child assault case, not a smacking case).

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3202 posts Report Reply

  • Miche Campbell, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    I can say with almost complete confidence that my life would have been better had my father been investigated, charged and convicted for smacking me and my brothers.

    In fact had it been an option there's a chance I'd have shopped him myself.

    It is neither safe nor logical to assume a child is more frightened of the police taking their parent(s) away than they are of the parent(s) themselves.

    Dunedin • Since Feb 2011 • 79 posts Report Reply

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