Jimmy Mason would have been convicted even if he had not punched his son in the face, and was charged under the old law
Today , the media reported that Jimmy Mason was convicted of assault for hitting his four year old son, in a case viewed as a test case on the anti-smacking legislation.
It is nothing of the sort.
The court report is here and the case has drawn some debate over at Public Address.
One of the charges Mason faced was for punching his son in the face and "flicking" his ear. Most people seem to think that Mason should have been found guilty for punching his son the face whatever the law - therefore the anti-smacking legislation is irrelevant to this case.
But what about the "flick on the ear". Well, just as the Timaru lady's horse whip was a riding crop, this flick was actually a pull- a good yank. Mason admitted that offence, saying that he was correcting - he calls it discipline - his child. He blew the only two defences he had.
You can't get off an assault charge if you admit you did it, or make a plea on the grounds of corrective discipline. Mason did both. If the charge was just the ear pull, the police would not have have pressed charges if they deemed it to be inconsequential correction. However, had they deemed it to be non-corrective assault, they may well have and Mason would have been convicted.
So I have to take issue with Deborah Morris-Travers of The Yes Vote who, in the context of this case, assumes the new child discipline legislation makes it clearer for judges and juries. First, the law is hardly new. It's been around for a while now. Secondly this case has nothing to do with the anti-smacking legislation, so it can't be part of the test of that assumption, purely because child discipline legislation is as irrelevant as the 1955 Eden Park Trust Act in in this case - even under the previous Section 59 of the Crimes Act.
updateBut I do think it is relevant that a woman cop was walking past at the time, and spoke to Mason. According to the media report of the court case, Mason told her at the scene that he punched his older son. If it was good enough for her to relay that conversation in court (as I believe she did), surely it was good enough for her to tell cop who gave Mason the initial warning what Mason told her. Then charges could have been pressed at that point before Mason blabbed to the media.