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How To Understand The New Zealand Anti-Smacking Law

Posted By admin On February 18, 2010 @ 3:57 pm In Consumer Law | Comments Disabled

In 2009 the New Zealand Government enforced an Anti-Smacking Law. But what does this law mean exactly, and what are your rights as a parent?

What Is The Law?

In 2009 The New Zealand Public was asked to vote and pass a referendum regarding the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” Following the vote the Government enforced the Anti Smacking Law.

The purpose of the Anti-Smacking law is essentially to make better provision for children so that they can live in a safe and secure environment that is free from violence. The Anti-Smacking law seeks to achieve this by abolishing the use of parental force for the purposes of correction.

The Purpose Of The Law

Although most parents do not abuse their children unfortunately some parents do and it is a big problem in New Zealand.

The Anti-Smacking law provides a safe and secure environment for both children and adults and ensures positive outcomes as children grow up. The law makes it clear that physical discipline is not a necessary or acceptable part of parenting because it undermines a child’s feelings of safety and security. In addition, the law helps to ensure that a child’s right to a fair deal in the courts is respected.

New Zealand among a growing number of countries around the world who have a legal ban on the use of physical punishment with children.

The law is designed to teach children that physical discipline is not the answer. Violence leads to fear and distrust of adults and often does not help children understand what behaviour is expected of them.

The law helps to ensure that children’s right to a fair deal in the courts are respected.

The law places New Zealand among a growing number of countries around the world who have a legal ban on the use of physical punishment with children.

What Are The Rules?

The rules apply to section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act. Use of force for correction is strictly forbidden. The Anti-Smacking Law states that adults who hit children hard enough to be prosecuted cannot excuse their behaviour as ‘correction’.

Adults caring for children can still use ‘force’ (by methods of holding or restraining) to keep children safe – for example adults can stop a child from running out onto the street, touching a hot stove, hurting themselves or other children and they can carry a protesting child out of a supermarket.

In using ‘force’ parents or guardians must act in good faith and have a reasonable belief that the force is both subjectively and objectively reasonable.

Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints made against a parent of a child or guardian where the offence is considered to be so minor that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Many everyday tasks require parents to use force when interacting with their children who are often stubborn and fidgety. When changing nappies, dressing or securing a child in a car seat the use of reasonable force in performing such tasks is permitted.

Police Investigation

If the Police are called by a member of the public believing unfair force has been used against a child, the Police will treat the incident as an assault investigation. The Police will consider the amount of force used and examine all circumstances of the situation. If possible the Police may refer the situation to Child Abuse Investigators where further examining will take place.

If a parent of a child or guardian of a child uses force that is not justified under section 59 of the New Zealand Crimes Act, and there are no exceptional circumstances for which Police may chose not to take legal action, the parent or guardian will be charged with assault and prosecutions will begin to take place.


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