Sunday, March 20, 2011

Preventing offensive or disruptive behaviour

The Sunday Star Times reports that a jury has acquitted a couple of 15 charges alleging cruelty against children relating to the current “anti-smacking” legislation.
A jury has set a new benchmark under the so-called “anti-smacking” legislation by acquitting a father even though he admitted tying his son to his wrist, shaving his hair off, and washing his mouth out with soap.
The case tested the amendment and showed what a jury would allow in terms of “justified force” to prevent or minimise harm, or to stop the child engaging in “offensive or disruptive behaviour”.
So, what was the punishment for this disruptive behaviour – and under what circumstances?
I grabbed my tie that I wear for church and I tied his wrist to my wrist beside my bed so he couldn’t take off and go and kill himself. Then he did manage to loosen it, so I did tie it around his neck for only about 30 seconds. I admitted to those things in court, but given the circumstances and what I was trying to achieve – trying to stop him killing himself – I was found not guilty.
There are two issues here. One is the use of corrective discipline, the other is the use of non-corrective discipline for preventing disruptive behaviour. The current law allows administration of the latter, not the former. This is the express intent of Parliament, as this amendment from Chester Borrows failed to pass. It would have defined reasonable force equally for both corrective and non-corrective discipline. This definition precludes the use of any weapon, tool or implement - like a tie perhaps.

As this case was discipline, albeit not of a corrective nature, the jury still had to decide whether the force was reasonable in the circumstances (to legally justify it). Sue Bradford considers all physical discipline is unjustifiable, believing it to be unreasonable and unacceptable abuse.
I'm not familiar with the details of the case but the sort of things you are talking about – to me they are all assaults against children. And I think it's really sad that a jury would think that those kind of activities are acceptable.
Bradford doesn’t appear to want to consider whether “these kinds of activities” were to prevent offensive or disruptive behaviour. Bradford’s stated intention in the anti-smacking legislation was to remove force for the purposes of correction,whatever the circumstances, but what she also wanted was to remove any force administered to children.

She failed to achieve this. In this case, based on info from news reports, the decision would have been the same under the old law, but not under the Borrows amendment.Indeed, Bob McCoskrie reveals, among other things that some of the charges were laid under the old law, after a grumpy ex-partner initiated the involvement of CYFS.

Perhaps the intent of Parliament is that most who would have been acquitted under the old law should be acquitted under the current law.If so, police should use discretion a lot more wisely when deciding to prosecute.

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