Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Family First wrong on smacking prosecutions

Bob McCoskrie from Family First has been issuing multiple media releases claiming - and hoping - that police have been prosecuting parents for light smacking. He claims there have been eight prosecutions in the past six months for smacking, with the implication that these eight were heading down the road to a conviction for smacking.

So why hasn't the MSM reported on it? McCoskrie's wrong and has misinterpreted the response to his own OIA, that's why. Shame, really as on the whole he does a pretty good job.

The OIA response is as follows: one, two, three, four, five, six.

Much of the relevant information has been publicly available for a month, and I blogged on it here. Police have divided corrective discipline into "smacking" and "minor forms of physical violence", the latter rate having gone up every quarter, but although cases have been investigated, the "eight prosecutions" were not smacking cases as they either had no inconsequential or corrective discipline component - they were upgraded to assault. The facts are as follows:

1. All 13 child smacking cases reported to police resulted in no further action because they are acceptable smacks and should never have been investigated to start with.So McCoskrie has a point here.
2. Of the "light acts of physical discipline" cases that were were followed up by the police, eight warranted further action and are the ones that McCoskrie is claiming are "smacking cases. All eight were upgraded to assault before they were prosecuted. None have yet been convicted, one got diversion and one got the charges withdrawn. The other six are awaiting their fate. None would have been prosecuted had the charge been upgraded to assault but McCoskrie didn't tell you that, and neither did Whale Oil who posted this from the OIA.

So, eight were charged with assault - assault of a kind that is not inconsequential and would no doubt have failed a Section 59 defence. Three were not convicted and five are awaiting the outcome of their cases. They were not smacking prosecutions because they were not assaults with a corrective action component and McCoskrie is creating a fallacy in repeatedly claiming that these are smacking cases that would have succeeded a defence of reasonable force - a defence of an action that must have a corrective component and be reasonable in the circumstances.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has been reported by MSM

August 12, 2008 at 5:07 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

yeah sort of then, I musta missed that one, that story is about the referendum, and prosecutions under a smacking law were not reported as fact.

August 12, 2008 at 5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How can it be "upgraded" when there is no definition for either smacking or minor acts of physical discipline. Perhaps you could define what the difference is Dave cause the police don't seem to be able to!!!!

August 12, 2008 at 5:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey dave - perhaps you could also explain why the stuff that Family First received had 8 convictions, but the public report
had only 4???????

August 12, 2008 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

A smack is like a smack on thebum, a light act of physical discipline is a harder smack on the bum - or two hard smacks, thats what the police told me. Its semantics putting them under two categories as both are light and inconsequential corrective discipline - ie: both come in under the original Section 59
more here

August 12, 2008 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

perhaps you could also explain why the stuff that Family First received had 8 convictions, but the public report had only 4

It's to do with maths, I guess. The police report had 4/69 upgrades to assault, Family First had 8/73 upgrades to assault - possibly meaning the last four investigations for "acts of physical discipline" were upgraded to assault.

Meaning we are hitting our kids harder and this law has made no difference to either smacking or child abuse?

August 12, 2008 at 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right - they do come under original s59. so it seems like you're saying family First is right after all and the law is simply confusing. how are parents supposed to understand all this?

August 12, 2008 at 6:18 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

I am not saying the law is confusing - but the police operational definitions are not even understood by the police. Any charges of assault would not come under the old S59, but light forms of physical discipline and smacking do - and are deemed inconsequential to prosecute.

If police prosecute and convict any action that is inconsequential National will change the law. But police operational guidelines prevent this happening so McCoskrie is wrong to imply that it is happening.

August 12, 2008 at 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

so you're saying that cases 16 and 17 on family first's website are NOT inconsequential????? A shove on the shoulder, tipping a kid off a chair. What about all the other warnings received by parents from police for other minor things. Give me a break. So police are getting it perfectly right every time even though they can't even define the categories with any certainty and there is no statutory definition. I'm with Family First on this one. Parents deserve certainty.

August 12, 2008 at 9:54 PM  
Blogger Swimming said...

No, what I am saying is that these cases are not smacking as per the old S59 as, based on what I have read, which isn't much, do not appear to be of a corrective nature. If that is the case the new S59 - which bans corrective discipline - is irrelevant to this case.

August 12, 2008 at 10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're not reading the law right. Yes it bans corrective discipline BUT POLICE SHOULD USE DISCRETION. They haven;t in these cases. They're wasting their own time, and they're hiding the fact that they are really just variations on smacking by using a different definition.

August 13, 2008 at 7:19 AM  
Blogger Swimming said...

Police are using discretion, that's why they have chosen not to prosecute more than nine times the number of cases than they have chosen to upgrade to assault - and of those they have upgraded and have had decisions issued none will have convictions.

August 13, 2008 at 7:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If police prosecute and convict any action that is inconsequential National will change the law. But police operational guidelines prevent this happening"

I'll reword that:
"If police use the law National will repeal it. If they don't use the law National will leave it, even though it serves no purpose."


Either they aren't using the law, in which case we may as well remove it (reinstate s59) because that is how the police are operating anyway and it gives greater legal certainty.

Or they are using the law, and prosecuting people for discipline (whether or not they label it "assault" before prosecuting), in which case the law is harming families and should be changed.

Either way s59 should be reinstated.

August 13, 2008 at 8:39 AM  

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