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Dear Mr McCully,

August 26th, 2009 by Madeleine

The law criminalises smacking, the best and most faithful reading of the law deems any use of force for the purposes of parental correction criminal; experts in legal interpretation agree on this. The people have objected loudly and all you have done is issue a promise to not enforce the law; a promise that can only be kept for as long as you govern, a promise that offends the duty of a government to ensure that the law is enforced.

Your so called “safeguards” offer no long term protection. What happens to those safeguards in the future if the Greens hold the balance of power? Or is that what is really going on – you won’t change the law because you want it to be easy to eradicate smacking long term in New Zealand?

I am not fooled. Courts are primarily directed by the black letter of the law not promises to not enforce it made by past governments. This government has a chance to offer parents protection that a future government will find harder to undo and it will fail if these “safeguards” are all it does.

Promises to not enforce a law that criminalises smacking are not good enough. If the government does not wish for parents who lightly smack their children for the purposes of correction to be prosecuted then it must change the law now, before the possibility of a new government arises.

Regards,

Madeleine Flannagan

The Hon Murray McCully emailed me (I suspect generically) this morning in response to my first email, Dear Cabinet,. The above is a response, sent to all members of Cabinet, to Mr McCully’s email to me which is pasted below,

The Prime Minister has announced that the Government is introducing safeguards to give parents comfort they will not be criminalised for lightly smacking their children.

The safeguards follow the Citizens Initiated Referendum on smacking. The referendum result reinforces the message that New Zealanders do not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack.

To give parents comfort that this will not happen, Cabinet has agreed on a number of measures. These are:

The Police and Ministry of Social Development chief executive will lead a review of Police and Child, Youth & Family policies and procedures, including the referral process between the two agencies, to identify any changes that are necessary or desirable to ensure good parents are treated as Parliament intended. The Commissioner of Police and Ministry of Social Development chief executive will seek an independent person to assist in the conduct of the review and will report back by 1 December 2009.

We will be bringing forward the delivery of the report from the Ministry of Social Development chief executive on data and trends and the effect of the law change from the end of the year to late September/early October. The Minister of Social Development will table the report in Parliament.

The Government will invite Police to continue to report on a six-monthly or annual basis for the next three years on the operation of the law, and invite Police to include data on cases where parents or caregivers say the force used on the child was reasonable in the circumstances.

If future Police data indicates a worrying trend, the law will be changed to ensure that good New Zealand parents are not criminalised for lightly smacking.

The Government believes the law is working as intended, but we want to give parents an assurance that a National-led Government will continue to monitor the way the law is being implemented.

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Fisking Margaret Mayman: The Flawed Moral Theology on the Smacking Referendum
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5 responses so far ↓

  • I got the same letter, so it was a generic one they sent out

  • Apparently they were sent over 1000 so that is not surprising.

  • They just cant seem to see the point… Not prosecuting people doesnt mean we're not criminals, we're just "not prosecuted". In Holland its illegal to smoke/possess cannibis, but the police just dont prosecute. Its still illegal, and you're breaking the law if you smoke it. Its the same thing. I smacked my daughter's hand because she kept trying to put it in the fireplace while I was lighting it. I am a criminal now, regardless of whether they choose to investigate this or not.

  • Exactly. As someone said on Kiwiblog, when homosexual conduct was illegal on the books but was not prosecuted not many were happy with that state of affairs.

  • There are a number of options for forcing the issue that should be considered:
    1. A court case requiring the court to declare that the law in New Zealand is not changed by way of such announcements, and requires legislation, i.e. the Muldoon case.
    2. A private prosecution for a parent for using force for correction of their child — have a set up, fully documented and evidenced by video and eye-witnesses, and force the court to interpret the legislation as it stands.