Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Making it up on smacking

189 Responses

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  • Kyle MacDonald, in reply to Steve Withers,

    I agree. It's hard to see where the balance was in the original story.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew C, in reply to James W,

    was this murky “reasonable force” law that allowed the latter group to get off thanks to a jury of their peers.

    Are there any figures on how often this defense was used successfully? I'm not trying to start a debate on it, just interested.

    Auckland • Since May 2008 • 167 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve, in reply to Andrew C,

    Are there any figures on how often this defense was used successfully? I’m not trying to start a debate on it, just interested.

    I'm not sure that statistics like that are ever kept, but there were a few higher profile examples involving hoses and the like. I'm sure someone can dig up details (they get a little lost in the search results these days)

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Paul Rowe,

    Being smacked with a jandal or a belt was fairly common when I was a kid in the 70s

    Yes. But there's a tricky balance between a resilient implement and one that gives the satisfaction of a good solid impact. Wooden spoons were just too expensive since they broke so often. But jandals are too floppy, and belts it's too easy to hit the wrong thing and leave visible marks (or take an eye out). A specially-made strap is a much better idea.

    This was not abuse, I'd just like to make that clear, this was normal parenting. "Everyone did it"{tm}. It only became abuse when they used a metre-long length of thick-wall poly pipe, or a fist-sized rock, or that unfortunate incident with the bit of 4x2 that turned out to have a nail poking out of it (hospitalisation required).

    The important result was that they did turn me into a vehement supporter of the "lets call it assault" laws.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    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?

    I sometimes ask myself that question.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • Kimberley Verburg,

    Is anyone else a bit creeped by Colin Craig claiming to punish his daughter with ""a flick of a finger on the back of a knuckle". Granted, it doesn't sound particularly violent but neither does it sound like a good way to teach a child to behave. More like a good way to teach a child that they're lesser; it's a play for dominance and doesn't sound particularly healthy.

    (Thoughts possibly influenced by the recent finale of Sherlock.)

    Leiden • Since Jun 2007 • 27 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to Kimberley Verburg,

    it's a play for dominance and doesn't sound particularly healthy.

    That's a feature, not a bug. It's no coincidence that authoritarian worldviews go hand in hand with authoritarian parenting practices. Authoritarian communities invest a lot of energy in the latter - see Babywise/Growing Children God's Way, To Train Up A Child and so on. Undermining parents' ability to exercise absolute power in the home undermines the ability of an authoritarian worldview to replicate itself.

    There are two groups of parents subject to this discussion - the larger group who lose their rag from time to time, and those who consider physical punishment to be a crucial parenting tool. It's the latter leading this debate, using the former as cover.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 976 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Doyle,

    If anything Craig's world view reminds me of the old Great Chain of Being.

    God
    Angels
    Kings/Queens
    Archbishops
    Dukes/Duchesses
    Bishops
    Marquises/Marchionesses
    Earls/Countesses
    Viscounts/Viscountesses
    Barons/Baronesses
    Abbots/Deacons
    Knights/Local Officials
    Ladies-in-Waiting
    Priests/Monks
    Squires
    Pages
    Messengers
    Merchants/Shopkeepers
    Tradesmen
    Yeomen Farmers
    Soldiers/Town Watch
    Household Servants
    Tennant Farmers
    Shephards/Herders
    Beggars
    Actors
    Thieves/Pirates
    Gypsies
    Animals
    Birds
    Worms
    Plants
    Rocks

    With a place for everything and everything in it's place. Including children.

    Stillwater • Since Nov 2011 • 28 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Yay!

    Radio New Zealand has followed up on Craig's interview and established that his claims about Australian smacking law were bullshit.

    Remember where you read it first, folks :-)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22724 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Stephen Doyle,

    Worms
    Plants
    Rocks

    ...and then it's turtles all the way down, right?

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7866 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    the consequences to a child of ongoing abuse from a birth parent can easily be worse than the consequences of that parent abruptly exiting their life.

    I have no doubt that this is almost always true.

    What changed your mind? This comment at the start of this discussion seems to have you thinking the opposite. (the quote by steven crawford above reminded me). I fear you're going to weasel in the Colin Craig "smacking is not abuse" vein, but if so I'd liike to see a nice, clear, lawyerly definition of the boundary from you.

    My line, FWIW, is quite clear: hit the child other than to prevent a clear, immediate threat and its abuse. Go to jail, do not pass on your problems to your child. The question I'm grappling with is whether sterilisation is justified in all cases or only the most severe.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Moz,

    It only became abuse when they used a metre-long length of thick-wall poly pipe

    And even then it was only abuse if you got a particularly unfortunate draw with the jury. Was it "Timaru Lady" who not only got away with a riding crop but also with a length of bamboo? Someone got away with using a fence paling, too, and I'm pretty sure there was a metal vacuum cleaner pipe in the mix also.

    What was there possibly to object to with such a sound law protecting our children?

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    What was there possibly to object to with such a sound law protecting our children?

    The nanny state?

    Watching scientists try to compare bad parenting with state care (foster parents, residential facilities, prisons) is both enthralling and terrifying. IIRC the gap between prison and residential care is often disturbingly small, especially if you have a disabled child and are looking at respite care or institutionalisation. But at a less personal level, the amount of abuse a child can experience at home before they'd be better off in foster care is terrifyingly large (albeit in part because to get to foster care children are normally institutionalised first).

    My hope is that the very real possibility of a criminal conviction and prison time would be enough to reform all but the most out-of-control parents. Either through deterrence or removal. I wonder if what we need is "crimes against children" dedicated police units who are a properly-resourced, uniformed corollory to the social welfare agencies, since the governments we have are so reluctant to invest in education and child care despite the huge savings available doing it that way. I suspect just letting the abuse work its way out over generations is more politically acceptable and the costs are deferred, making them effectively invisible.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Putting the merits of the smacking law to one side, the episode stands as an example of how not to bring about social and legislative change.

    We can all reflect on what a win this was for democracy the next time Parliament passes fiercely contested social legislation in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Withers, in reply to Ian Dalziel,

    Love that Wiki article. Thanks for posting the link.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 312 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to WH,

    the episode stands as an example of how not to bring about social and legislative change.

    Sometimes it just has to be done, regardless of public opinion at the time. If public opinion was the gauge, we'd still have criminalised homosexuality, spousal rape would remain a legal impossibility, the death penalty would remain on the books, we'd still sentence people to hard labour, and all would be merry and shite.

    The right thing to do is the right thing to do, no matter what talk-back and Family Fist have to say on the matter. There aren't too many social issues where the changes are clearly about protecting or upholding the rights of a minority (or non-voting, in the case of children) group. Waiting for public opinion to come around on those issues largely means it just won't happen, or certainly won't happen for far, far too long.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to WH,

    We can all reflect on what a win this was for democracy the next time Parliament passes fiercely contested social legislation in the face of overwhelming public opposition.

    The term you're looking for is tyranny of the majority, usually put as "two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner". Pure democracy is a dangerous thing, which is why we have an independent judiciary and elect representatives rather than voting directly on issues.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    I hear what you're saying, but don't agree that smacking children can be compared to spousal rape or criminalised homosexuality.

    There were a range of ways in which New Zealand could have responded to concerns about the use of physical discipline. Funding for at-risk families could have been increased, education and support could have provided to new parents, or a total ban could have been phased in over time.

    Instead of trying to persuade a sceptical electorate, Sue Bradford's supporters conflated parenting methods still in widespread use with the most severe kinds of child abuse. The discussion of whether it was acceptable to smack your child's hand in a supermarket devolved into the discussion of whether it is good parenting to beat a child around the head with a piece of bamboo. Supporters' inability to maintain the distinction at the heart of the conversation created a deeply unpleasant and fractious atmosphere.

    I don't think Bradford's proposal was a sensible way to start a law reform effort and I don't think she was the right person to lead such a sensitive debate. The problems with her approach were compounded by the fact that she couldn't admit that a middle ground existed without undermining the case for her own amendment.

    In short, I don't think that our Parliament should have overrode public opinion in the way that it did in this case. IMO we were forced into a fool's choice by Bradford and the rhetoric of her supporters.

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to WH,

    The discussion of whether it was acceptable to smack your child's hand in a supermarket devolved into the discussion of whether it is good parenting to beat a child around the head with a piece of bamboo. Supporters' inability to maintain the distinction at the heart of the conversation created a deeply unpleasant and fractious atmosphere.

    I think blaming Sue Bradford for the insanity of the child beaters is a stretch too far. If the pro-beating crowd could have restrained themselves and only supported parents who smacked a child's hand the discussion would have been very different. Instead we were treated to the spactacle of pro-beaters saying "we support this parent who's been unjustly charged" ... "with punching a five year old in the face", which didn't help anyone.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1176 posts Report Reply

  • WH,

    Instead we were treated to the spactacle of pro-beaters saying “we support this parent who’s been unjustly charged” … “with punching a five year old in the face”, which didn’t help anyone.

    I think you're right, that would be a really unfortunate position to take.

    Those were the kinds of real-life acquittals that persuaded most reasonable people that the old law needed to be changed.

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford, in reply to WH,

    I don’t think Bradford’s proposal was a sensible way to start a law reform effort and I don’t think she was the right person to lead such a sensitive debate. The problems with her approach were compounded by the fact that she couldn’t admit that a middle ground existed without undermining the case for her own amendment.

    Bradford’s proposal did however, prove to have a satisfactory outcome. Sue Bradford was the right person to lead the debate because it was her proposal. So what is your idea of a middle ground to the removal of that specific piece of law? And what exactly did Sue Bradford do to piss you off?

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to WH,

    a total ban could have been phased in over time.

    We’re going to start driving on the other side of the road, but the change will be introduced gradually.

    But seriously, how would a graduated system be anything but confusing and unclear?

    As with any assault, it’s unlikely to be prosecuted at the low end of the spectrum.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Lilith __,

    But seriously, how would a graduated system be anything but confusing and unclear?

    Well, how did it work in Sweden? Their initial law change didn't amend their criminal law.

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

  • WH,

    And what exactly did Sue Bradford do to piss you off?

    I think Bradford's campaign was dishonest, that her tactics set the stage for one of the most unpleasant public debates of the last decade, and that the overall result was undemocratic. I think that's enough reasons to disapprove of what she did. I know there are those who consider that the ends justified the means.

    We’re going to start driving on the other side of the road, but the change will be introduced gradually.

    I'm having a flashback of the Sandringham Rd / New North Road intersection. I hope you guys are doing something about this while I'm away.

    Floating the idea that legislative phase-ins are "confusing and unclear" because you don't approve of a particular policy is pretty disingenuous. An immediate ban was not the only way we could have gone on this.

    As with any assault, it’s unlikely to be prosecuted at the low end of the spectrum.

    This is where a lot of people - maybe 85% of people - did not want us to be.

    Since Nov 2006 • 781 posts Report Reply

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