In September 2008 I wrote this:
“Unfortunately, what this [the repeal of section 59] does to parents is place them in a position of having no clear idea what is an acceptable smack. Worse still, it allows children to threaten their parents, thereby seriously reducing their authority, even if the child has no intention of notifying the police.”
Yesterday, I blogged about the Deputy Police Commissioner seeking to suggest that police were being discrete. I said that he was missing the point.
Today, as if to emphasise my argument, we have this:
“A schoolbus driver was taken to court for grabbing the arm of a rowdy boy who would not stop pulling a girl’s hair.”
the sad fact remains that a substantial number of parents lack the skills to discipline their children in any way other than by smacking”
This case graphically illustrates the dangerous consequences of the repeal of section 59, as outlined in my original post quoted above. Here is an adult attempting to control an unruly child with minimum force who is then not merely threatened with police action or even simply questioned by police, but prosecuted for it. By all accounts his handling of the boy was reasonably restrained, not abusive and certainly justified. Yet the police still saw fit to drag him through the court process despite having so weak a case that the judge simply threw it out of court.
Note that in terms of the new section 59 (and section 48) of the crimes act , the driver was well within his rights to use reasonable force anyway. Here is the relevant part of Section 59:
(1) Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of—
(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
(d) performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.
(2) Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction. [emphasis mine]”
I would have said his actions fall under 1(a), (b), (c), and (d) and are not interpretable as being in any way “correction”. It would seem therefore that the police do not even know their own law. I other words, they were not merely not using their discretion but actively pursuing an obviously innocent man.
Stuff provides us with this scary addition to the story:
“The case had been referred by Gore police for diversion but it had been turned down by a senior officer, Mr McCorkindale said. [emphasis mine]”
So the local police were happy that this was a piece of nonsense (although they should have simply dropped it, after ascertaining the facts – “Diversion” implies guilt). But some silly twit in a senior position decided to prosecute an obviously meritless case. Said senior officer should be placed on traffic duties immediately – that is where officious prats really belong.
From this sorry episode we can see the inevitable consequences of criminalising even the slightest use of force over children.
- Children no longer have any incentive to respect adults. Why should they when they can enlist the police at the slightest hint of forceful coercion? Let us be clear here. I do not favour violence against children in any way. But there are certainly cases where using force against a child is the only way to ensure obedience. Particularly if the child in question is large and aggressive and doing actions that must be stopped. Note that this scenario has been rendered far more likely because section 59 has ensured that many parents now do not discipline their children at all.
- Police “discretion” is shown to be wholly inconsistent and dependent on the whim of the senior officer responsible. As I pointed out yesterday, this discretion is subject to the politicians in power and this event merely confirms this. Senior police officials inevitably enforce the political will of the times, although there is a certain lag between governments (due to the length of time cases take, but also due to the political nature of senior appointments).
- The worst consequence of this, though, is the inevitable backlash of adults being too afraid to administer any sort of restraint at all. Can you just imagine the state of school busses? Children will be allowed to run riot simply because no driver wants to be dragged through the time, stress and expense of a prosecution. Drivers will retire early and be hard to replace. School bus services will inevitably become more expensive to attract drivers with higher salaries. Magnify this effect throughout society. It is already obvious in education. How long before paediatric nurses and doctors decide they have had enough? How long before CYFS is overwhelmed with unruly, out-of-control children?
I realise this is an emotive debate for some people; that they find the use of any physical force against children repulsive. I have some sympathy for that view, but the sad fact remains that a substantial number of parents lack the skills to discipline their children in any way other than by smacking. This is partly due to lack of knowledge; but also due to lack of time and, it has to be admitted, inclination. Section 59 ensures that most of these parents do not discipline their children at all, or discipline them in an ineffectual manner. Add the fact that many of these parents are in the same risk groups for child abuse and criminality, and you have, in the repeal of section 59, a dangerous time-bomb set to explode traumatically in our near future.
And the saddest thing is that John Key, who is an intelligent man, will have seen this coming and ignored it, when he could so easily have changed it.
Smile and wave, boys…