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Baldock gets a smacking

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 pm, June 17th, 2009 - 97 comments
Categories: child discipline - Tags: , , , ,

The folks at The Yes Vote point to a hilarious exchange this morning between Sean Plunket and Larry Baldock on Morning Report. Challenged repeatedly to come up with one single example of a parent who has been criminalised for smacking a child, Baldock fudged, then fudged some more, and then rounded it off with some more fudging. Take a look at this:

Baldock: It is absolutely clear that if a parent uses any reasonable force right now to correct their child right now they are breaking the law

Plunket: Can you give us an example of that having happened?

Baldock: There are examples that we’ll have available

Plunket: Can you give us a single example of that having happened, please?

Baldock: There was a grandfather for example, who tipped his grandson out of a chair because the grandson refused to obey his grandfather to turn down the television and so on.

Plunket: Was he convicted and was that a smack?

Baldock: He plead guilty

Plunket: Was that a smack?

Baldock: No, he tipped him out of a chair .

Plunket: Can you point to anyone who has been criminalised for smacking a child?

Baldock: Yes we can.

Plunket: Please, could you give me an example?

Baldock: Well, I’ll have to go to my list of examples.

Plunket: Can you give me a single example off the top of your head?

Baldock: No, not off the top of my head, I can’t.

and so on.

It got so bad in the end that Baldock was forced to dredge up old “punch in the face dad” Jimmy Mason as an example. That only made things worse. Honestly, to think this farce is going to cost us $9 million. I guess accomodating these clowns is the price we pay for living in a democracy.

[Audio here]

97 comments on “Baldock gets a smacking ”

  1. Graeme 1

    Every parent who smacks a child has been criminalised.

    Sue Bradford, and a large number of other people may well consider it a good thing, but just because police haven’t found it about it, or having found out about it, don’t prosecute, doesn’t mean parents who smack aren’t breaking the law.

    • Pascal's bookie 1.1

      Who decides if an individual is a criminal?

      Parliament, or the courts?

      If merely breaking the law makes someone a criminal, then most of us are criminals in one way or another already. The ‘criminalising good parents’ rhetoric was used to conjure up images of courts filled with parents being convicted and cyfs on every doorstep.

      • Graeme 1.1.1

        The Law.

        (in a country that respects the rule of law, anyway).

        A jury decides if you’re convicted. A judge decides if you go to prison. But just because you haven’t been caught, or haven’t been convicted, doesn’t mean you’re a not a criminal. Thus, the difference between “a criminal” and “a convicted criminal”.

        • Anita

          Can you give an example of a sentence where “a criminal” is used for someone who is not convicted which is not potentially defamatory? (Ignoring metaphorical use and the ridiculously trivial of course 🙂 )

          I’m sure you’re right, but I struggled with how to use it in Real Life 🙂

          • Graeme

            Calling a convicted criminal a criminal is defamatory, so not really.

            You can use defamation to look at it it another way, however. If you publish an article accusing someone of committing a crime, and being a criminal, then you can plead truth as a defence, prove that they did commit the crime, and win the case. You can do this even if the person has never been convicted, and even if the person has been acquitted.

          • Pascal's bookie

            “and win the case.”

            Has that been done, or are you speaking hypothetically?

            Could the plaintiff not argue that to be ‘a criminal’ one needs to be convicted of a crime?

        • Lew


          just because you haven’t been caught, or haven’t been convicted, doesn’t mean you’re a not a criminal.

          Doesn’t it? Until proven guilty, isn’t one person presumed to be no more criminal than the next?

          (Of course, it’s a rhetorical question – but I want to see your working around it.)


        • Psycho Milt

          The individual knows whether they committed the crime or not. Did you smack the kid? Yes = criminal. No = not a criminal. What’s difficult to understand here?

          • Lew


            The individual knows whether they committed the crime or not.

            By this definition, almost everyone everywhere is likely a criminal, having (knowingly or not) done something against the law. This stretches the definition of “criminal” to the point of absurdity, and beyond usefulness. Add to which, it’s not verifiable absent external validation by some means, such as a court.


          • Graeme

            This stretches the definition of “criminal’ to the point of absurdity, and beyond usefulness.

            I disagree. “A criminal is someone who has committed a crime” is a perfectly serviceable definition.

          • Lew


            I disagree. “A criminal is someone who has committed a crime’ is a perfectly serviceable definition.

            The problem is in verification. It’s perfectly serviceable only if there is some degree of certainty for those not involved in the (alleged) crime. Without external verification it’s not at all certain except for those involved, and not at all useful a definition for anyone else.


          • Graeme


            The legal system doesn’t decide who is a criminal. It decides who should be convicted of a crime.

            You’re a criminal if you commit a crime. We might not know you’re a criminal, we might not have the proof of criminality necessary to secure a conviction, but if you’ve committed a crime, you’re a criminal.

            You’re in a shop with someone; they suggest you take a chocolate bar and stick it in your pocket. You reply, “nah that’s illegal”. Will you put much stock in their answer “no, it’s legal, you’re only breaking the law if you get caught and convicted.”

            [now replace steal a chocolate bar, with smack a child]

        • Pascal's bookie

          “Thus, the difference between “a criminal’ and “a convicted criminal’.”

          That difference, is that a colloquial one, or does it have meaning in Law? ie, what is the legal distinction between being innocent and being a criminal?

          • Graeme

            The legal system does not (or at least should not) treat someone as guilty until it has been proved that they are guilty. But the fact that someone is not charged, or even charged and not convicted, does not change what they did.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Goodnes me. I’m at a loss to understand what you mean.

            It’s not a difficult question I think. Under the rule of Law, what has to happen before the Law decides that someone is, in fact, a criminal?

            No one is arguing about what someone did or not. We are talking about ‘when is someone a criminal in the eyes of the law’.

            I think you are now saying that strictly speaking they are not, for legal purposes at least, a criminal until they have been convicted. But I only think so because the goalposts; they appear to be moving. 😉

  2. Graeme beat me to it. The law post-Bradford and Clark makes smacking a child for the purposes of correction a criminal offence. Plunket’s ability to make Larry Baldock look foolish doesn’t alter that fact. Your childish glee in a political enemy’s humiliation may make you feel good, but it means nothing beyond that.

    • bill brown 2.1


      The law post Bradford and Key takes away the defence of correction for hitting a child.

      Assault of a child was illegal pre the Bradford and Key change.

  3. sonic 3

    ” The law post-Bradford and Clark makes smacking a child for the purposes of correction a criminal offence.”

    A bar that serves alcohol to anyone who is “intoxicated” is also breaking the law. Are you demanding that the police arrest every drunk person in New Zealand to find out who sold them the booze or that the law be repealed?

    After all the police cannot show discretion can they.

    • Luxated 3.1

      Indeed, the more pertinent example would however be a woman who slaps an overly keen guy in a bar. I’ve never heard of anyone prosecuted for that and yet it in the strictest sense assault. Its all about degrees and where the line is drawn.

      In removing the ‘reasonable force’ defense ambiguity has been removed from the law, so that in cases of abuse the jury will hopeful be of one mind as to what constitutes abuse.

    • Sonic, what’s your point? The fact that other activities are also against the law isn’t relevant and what I might think about those laws is also irrelevant. We’re discussing this particular crap law right now – other crap laws can take their turn.

      Ah, fuck it – I’ll play along. If Bradford proposes that drinking in a bar be made a criminal offence to remove “ambiguity” regarding what constitutes intoxication and ensure offenders are punished, presumably you’ll be all for it?

      • Luxated 3.2.1

        Being intoxicated isn’t illegal is it?

        There is of course the issue of serving the intoxicated, however there are fairly reliable methods of checking whether someone is drunk or not, breath testing and blood tests being the main ones, something which I imagine is fairly routine if they are put in the cells for disrupting the peace and are suspected of being drunk. After that its just tracking down where they have been drinking, different kettle of fish entirely.

    • Graeme 3.3

      Of course the police can exercise discretion. The point is that just because the police have exercised discretion does not change the underlying nature of the act.

      Just because George W. Bush hasn’t been dragged before the International Criminal Court doesn’t mean he’s not a war criminal 🙂

      • Ag 3.3.1

        Oh for God’s sake.

        There are cases where somebody who should be dragged before the courts has not been dragged before the courts. George Bush falls into that category of offender.

        But laws are notoriously coarse instruments. What we don’t want is people being dragged into court for things that are technically illegal, but inconsequential. That’s why the police as a practical matter exercise discretionary powers.

        The alcohol example is a good one. Bartenders (and I have been one myself, so I know what I am talking about) are not supposed to serve intoxicated persons, but every Saturday night thousands of intoxicated persons buy alcohol. The police don’t care about that. What they do care about is people who are completely and utterly shitfaced or aggressively drunk being served alcohol. The law is designed to stop those people buying more alcohol.

        When I tended bar I was told this: “If you think someone has had enough, don’t serve them.” So I asked, “How do I know when someone has had enough?”, and they said, “Oh, you’ll know all right.” They were, of course, correct.

        No legal system can function properly without discretionary powers. Thus, the primary thing a police officer needs to develop is good judgement.

        The smacking law works this way. The idea that thousands of parents will clog the courts because of it is just as dumb as thinking that thousands of drunks will clog the courts on a Monday morning. It doesn’t happen, and for good reason.

        • Graeme

          I have never argued that “that thousands of parents will clog the courts because of [the amendment to section 59]”. Anyone are argued that at the time the law was going through was scaremongering. It was never going to happen.

          Is anyone seriously disputing this?

          Most people who smoke the occasional joint will never be caught, and never be prosecuted.

          That does not mean that possession of marijuana is anything other than illegal. It *is* illegal. People in possession of marijuana break the law.

      • Psycho Milt 3.3.2

        We don’t care that we won’t end up in court – we do care that the govt’s declared us criminals. And not just the kind of joke “selling alcohol to intoxicated people” criminals, but violent criminals guilty of assault. “Don’t worry, you won’t be arrested” isn’t really going to stop us getting pissed off about it.

        • bill brown


          Assault of a child was illegal before the law was changed

          The only change is now that if you make it before court you can no longer hide behind the defence of using force for correction of a child

        • Maynard J

          I do not get it – you always were criminals. The repeal of S59 did not change that.

        • Psycho Milt

          I do not get it

          Well, you certainly got that right.

          Assault of a child was illegal before the law was changed

          Except for “reasonable force,” which included smacking. It’s hard to see what’s so difficult to understand about that – but then, given that the thread is full of people who profess not to understand what a criminal is, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. What is this, the World Obtuse Championships?

          • Maynard J

            That comment was hard to read through all the smug.

            No, it is not the World Obtuse Championships, nor is it the “I have a firm idea about this and choose to ignore all that I do not understand, so you are all stupid’ championships, but if it were you would be on top of the podium.

            The action was always illegal – I have not seen anything to show that the legal defence stopped that activity from being illegal itself. buy, y’know – you seem sure of it so do not bother trying to get your head around the idea or anything.

          • Graeme

            The action was always illegal I have not seen anything to show that the legal defence stopped that activity from being illegal itself

            I’ll start by saying that that’s just how legal defences work. It’s how they’ve worked for hundreds of years everyone accepted this until the child discipline debate occurred; someone thought it a clever argument, and unfortunately, we’ve been stuck with it since.

            But you know that we’ve been stating that. How to prove to you that it’s the case is the question. It’s so old that it’s not clearly written anywhere (kinda like how the Electoral Act never says that the person with the most votes wins in an electorate contest, and the Juries Act didn’t used to say juries had to be unanimous).

            I think it is probably best evidenced by analogy. If you consider what your conclusion would mean for some of the other defences in the law it may help bring it into starker relief. Your line of reasoning would mean that a victim of a serious assault who fights off their attacker is breaking the law, committing an illegal act in doing so. The current defence of self defence, and the former parental discipline defence are in quite similar terms.

            Contrast section 48:

            Every one is justified in using, in the defence of himself or another, such force as, in the circumstances as he believes them to be, it is reasonable to use.

            with this the old section 59:

            Every parent or person in place of a parent of a child is justified in using force by way of correction towards a child if that force is reasonable in the circumstances.

            You may consider it a little odd to view someone defending themselves from someone attempting to rape them or attempting to kill someone is breaking the law, but still find it an acceptable conclusion, but I think an even stronger argument by analogy can be brought with the defence of surgical operations.

            Cutting someone with a scalpel is pretty serious, removing an appendix or other organ from someone would be a very very serious offence if you or I were to do it on some random person it would be illegal and criminal. But this is what surgeons do every day; thankfully, they have a defence:

            Every one is protected from criminal responsibility for performing with reasonable care and skill any surgical operation upon any person for his benefit, if the performance of the operation was reasonable, having regard to the patient’s state at the time and to all the circumstances of the case.

            Are you seriously suggesting that surgery is illegal, and that surgeons commit criminal acts daily, that surgeons who lose people on the operating table commit the offence of manslaughter, but can just use a defence to avoid conviction for an illegal act they have actually committed?

            The simple fact is that surgery performed with reasonable care and skill is not illegal. This is a good thing. And reasonable force used by a parent by way of correction such as a smack was not illegal either. Whether that was a good thing is debateable, but it was a thing.

          • Maynard J

            Thanks Graeme, that clears it up significantly – I thought that the S59 defence operated in a different fashion to other types of exclusions as you list below, and I gather you’re saying that it did not.

            “kinda like how the Electoral Act never says that the person with the most votes wins in an electorate contest”

            A random thought – what if National put something into law stating that the party that comes second gets to run the country. That would give power to Labour, but it would at the same time make the law giving power to Labour illegal, since an illegal party made the law. As soon as that happened, National would regain power, and lose it simultaneously. Would the beehive explode?

      • Pascal's bookie 3.3.3

        You can see he is for rhetorical purposes, and lots of people would agree with you as a matter of opinion, but he is surely an alleged war criminal at this point, as a matter of fact?

        There is a lot of footage about of fists being thrown, and other clear assaults, by people on sports fields. Do you think you be perfectly safe from defamation if you were to go around referring to “That criminal, Pinetree Meads” and warning people not to do business with him because “he is a criminal”?

        Do you that he would be refused a liquor licence if he wanted one ” because he is a criminal”?

        • Graeme

          I think it entirely possible that someone might lose their liquor licence for something they did that is illegal, even though they haven’t been convicted.

          If a liquor licensing authority determines that a bar is selling alcohol to minors, they may suspend or even revoke the liquor licence. The argument that “yes we sold alcohol to minors, but it is not illegal, we didn’t break the law, not only have we not been convicted, we haven’t even been charged” will get rather short shrift.

  4. dave 4

    Who decides if an individual is a criminal? Parliament, or the courts?

    In this case Parliament has enacted a law saying the police should decide if the courts should convict – because it didn’t want to enact clear law – without telling them how they should decide whether or not to prosecute an action which is a criminal offence that legally, can make someone a criminal.

  5. Sparo 5

    Thanks for this blog.. Yes, I’d heard the SP/Baldock interview and was appalled at several aspects, too.

    Instance the said Baldock talking of “the people” – of NZ – that is the definite article and distinctively states all or as many as a multitude as there are were consulted, involved and participating.. when in point of fact the very best that said Baldock could allude to came later as “390,000”. Less than 10 percent the population.

    Misleading, and most annoying to listen to such a strong voice’s utterance. A strength I will add that in this event did not reflect the weight of his case. SP’s talents were well applied in contending this.

    Secondly, the said Baldock appeared like a bandit when, later it was disclosed that he would withdraw the Referendum if and when the government changed the law he and/or his group were seeking change. Not good enough.

    Though instructive for why a government could/would not necessarily take up a Referendum vote..

    To my surprise – (consternation) – later I heard Section 59 repeal advocate Sue Bradford declare that people should get out and vote in the Referendum. A process which attempts implant smacking as a ‘crime’ in New Zealand.

    Like so many folks my own view is that in these times Referenda matters over so slight an issue given the recent law change appears working adequately is a waste of time and money, better spent on food banks or jobs retention.

    That aside, to hear Ms Bradford advise folks to get into this thing looked* naivé. Her prior campaigning had been very clear about child discipline and not solely smacking. Whereas the other fellow had appeared equally clear that smacking was the issue.

    War of words, you might say. Yet more significantly I’d add plain argument. With its unwelcome and overly passionate attack and denial aspects. Personally I’d thought the said Baldock at the time did not realise his own immature display. Arrogance, aggression, could never become his aid in such argument. Such is life.

    But the point was that what was on public display was a battle of wills. Twixt two relatively small groups. Argument, was that all..? And regardless the answer to this question, of the rightness or wrongness of the issue, due process through the peoples’ Parliament was always going to be the way to go.

    If I must hereby serve myself up as Captain Obvious then to me it was like written in stone. From the beginning. Actually.

    Now what we have is the result of an argument, whose first phase was lost to the parliament’s amendment, and whose second phase, due in my view to one side’s ill-considered pursuit, would seek to undermine the parliament.

    And people.

    * Ms Bradford tonight on RNZ talked of a further amendment by which plain questions on single issues enabling clear concise answers should be the prime criteria for Referenda. I would hope the Parliament sees merit in this. If only to direct those who else may seek undermine its authority.

  6. Whining about the cost of this vote should be the last thing you do Eddie. Your lot delayed having the vote in November. That didn’t work out so good in hindsight did it.

  7. ieuan 7

    So, no one can agree on the definition of ‘criminal’.

    How about the definition of ‘good’ or even ‘parental correction’?

    And shouldn’t the question mention something about the fact we are talking about smacking children, or is that just implied?

    Also given the fact it is not a criminal offense to smack a child under the present law (because of the National amendment) then the question is totally redundant.

    The whole situation would be laughable if it didn’t cost the tax payer $9 million.

  8. I don’t know what all the fuss is about – clearly the wording of the referendum refers to “parental correction” ie. the correction of parents. So we’re voting for or against whether smacking parents should be a criminal offence. Interesting.

    Just wondering how this compares to speeding on the roads…. if I go 51 kph in a 50 kph zone then technically it could be seen as a criminal offence (I know there’s a distinction between road offences and general offences, but anyway) even though the police wouldn’t do anything about it until I reach 61 kph.

    The point being there are a lot of things that are technically criminal offences, but which the police wouldn’t prosecute for. What’s the big deal about this being one of them?

    • Sparo 8.1

      lucky you – 61kph. Down here I forked out out $50 for 56kph..

      seriously and fmi did something change here.. or are fines different in different places..?

      • Anita 8.1.1

        It’s not the fines, it’s the tolerance. Different types of areas have different tolerances, I think jarbury is talking about the well known 11kph tolerance but it’s lower, for example, near schools. I also seem to remember the tolerance rules are different for fixed cameras from mobile patrols.

  9. wtl 9

    Isn’t ‘format shifting’ illegal under NZ copyright law and therefore wouldn’t anyone who does be considered a criminal under this pointless ‘strict definition’? (at least under the old copyright law?)

    And as pointed out earlier, anyone who has ever played rugby has probably committed assault, yet “I don’t want to be a criminal” is NOT one of the reasons people choose to not play rugby/

  10. Outofbed 10

    I really really want to smack Larry Baldrick
    Nine million bucks because he is a wanker
    As the referendum is going to make fuck all difference why doesn’t he say he will withdraw it if the money saved went to say, positive parenting courses ?

  11. millsy 11

    Graeme/Psycho Milt,

    You dont want to be a criminal? Then dont hit your kids. Simple as that. I consider it disgusting that people should be able to get away with punching and kicking their kids, as well as beating them with kids with utensils and pipes, etc

    • Graeme 11.1

      Why would I want to hit a child? I oppose smacking children. People shouldn’t do it. Parents shouldn’t do it. There are much better ways to raise children.

      The only point I’ve been trying to make in this thread is that it is illegal to smack children, and possibly, that this didn’t used to be the case.

      You appear to agree with me on my primary point, and your comment at least implies that you accept my secondary point as well. You think people who hit their kids are criminals; I think people who hit their kids are criminals; the law says that people who hit their kids are criminals. Why are you trying to argue with me?

    • Millsy:
      1. No-one gives a rat’s ass what you find disgusting or what you don’t.
      2. The acts you describe are irrelevant to this thread.

  12. BLiP 12

    Does anyone wonder whether or not the 300,000+ New Zealanders that signed the petition ever read anything they sign? I do.

    • Sparo 12.1

      300,000.. thanks Blip for that correction(in effect) to my comment. I heard the same figure in today’s run-on radio at RNZ’s MR.. though at the time of writing I was pretty sure the said Baldock stated 390,000.

      gotta stay with accuracy, albeit the guy’s hollering for less than 10 percent of the population… as of now. From what I hear the tally is headed south…

      my view remains, however, that the fellow and his ‘friends’ are more about propaganda than anything else.. that $9million was gifted for this purpose has additional dimension..

      • Anita 12.1.1

        I think that Baldock presented a petition of 390,000+ signatures, of which tens of thousands were disallowed as duplicates or not-on-the-roll. In the end it barely passed the threshold.

        It’s worth remembering that when it was first presented too many signatures were invalid so it didn’t hit the threshold, so they had to go back and collect again to make up the gap. It was very very close to not making the threshold.

      • BLiP 12.1.2

        Yep – I’ve now seen it elsewhere at 390,000 signatures.

  13. rave 13

    This is a law to stop pathetically weak people who cannot raise their children by example beating them up. Or pathetically weak people who were beaten up raising their children by example, so that they too beat up on their kids.
    Wilhelm Reich once wrote a book about the psychopathology of fascism in which he described the authoritarian personality as one which cowers in front of authority (having been beaten up as kids no doubt) but can’t wait to beat up on someone weaker then themselves.
    Most moral weaklings take it out on their own private property – their kids. Now they can’t hide behind their rights to private property. Their kids have some rights too, the rights of any person not to be assaulted. If cops can be assaulted by protesters for breathing in their face, kids can be protected from those who beat them till they stop breathing.
    The Reich book was called “Listen Little Man”.
    Describes Larry Balldocked to a T

    • Maybe you’re thinking of some other law. The one we’re discussing here criminalises smacking. Most parents are criminals under it, because most of them end up giving their kid a smack at some point. Maybe the great majority are “pathetically weak” compared to your own Nietzschian superman capabilities? Frankly, I doubt it.

      • bill brown 13.1.1


        Assault of a child was illegal pre the law change.

        The law change has taken away the defence of correction for hitting a child should you make it to court.

  14. rave 14

    Moderated for the f*s*i*t word. Get a life!

  15. Rodel 15

    Just read Brian Rudman’s article and readers’ comments about the referendum.
    The level of inherent violence in the pro-slappers is quite worrying.

  16. Chris G 16

    I just cant empathise with this over-zealous defence of ones ‘Right’ to smack a child. If I said ‘Im defending my right to smack a child’ I’d think I was a fuckin idiot.

  17. Steve 17

    This Referendum would not be costing $M9 if it had have been done in conjunction with the last General Election.

  18. toad 18

    Seems that Baldock (or should that be Baldork) made a bit of a dork of himself on Campbell Live last night too.

  19. roger nome 19

    Gream wants to talk about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin – meanwhile people are being punished for punching children in the head – how awful.

    Is this really just about you not wanting to feel bad about terrifying your children with violence and the threat of violence Greame? i.e. the law defines you as a criminal. If it is just about your feelings of guilt, then i suggest your argument is self-serving and narcissistic to the point of being absurd. Any reasonable person should throw it out on those grounds.

    • Graeme 19.1

      The law does not define me as a criminal. I don’t smack children. I oppose smacking children.

      I just thought I’d come here on and remind people that smacking children is illegal. Eddie’s post implies that it is not.

      • Pascal's bookie 19.1.1

        Where does Eddie’s post imply that, exactly.

        June 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm
        Every parent who smacks a child has been criminalised.

        Who decides if an individual is a criminal?

        June 17, 2009 at 7:48 pm

        The Law.

        (in a country that respects the rule of law, anyway).

        A jury decides if you’re convicted. A judge decides if you go to prison. But just because you haven’t been caught, or haven’t been convicted, doesn’t mean you’re a not a criminal. Thus, the difference between “a criminal’ and “a convicted criminal’.

        That difference, is that a colloquial one, or does it have meaning in Law? ie, what is the legal distinction between being innocent and being a criminal?

        June 17, 2009 at 8:58 pm
        The legal system does not (or at least should not) treat someone as guilty until it has been proved that they are guilty.

        If you look closely, you can actually see the goalposts move…

        June 18, 2009 at 7:42 pm

        I just thought I’d come here on and remind people that smacking children is illegal. Eddie’s post implies that it is not.

        … yep, there they go.

        We started of with an assertion that people have been criminalised by a law, and we end up by saying that certain actions are illegal.

        IANAL but I don’t think that legally speaking any law defines someone as a criminal. Laws define actions as crimes.

        Colloquially we might say that anyone that has done such an act is a criminal, but if I understand your quoted statements above, then according the rule of law, a person is treated as innocent until proven guilty, presumably in a court. So that, legally speaking, would be where the criminalising of a person takes place. Prior to, or absent that, under the rule of law, a person is legally considered to be innocent. Am I wrong here?

        It seems to me, that when people say that this law criminalises them, they are speaking colloquially. Though at various points in the debate they have implied otherwise, with what you said was scaremongering.

        This lesser, unofficial and non legal sense of a person being criminalised seems like pretty weak tea to object to the law on. We are criminalised this way by lots of laws. Why should this one be so special?

        It seems to me that if this is the strongest objection, it’s not much of a one. It privileges grown ups feelings over kids safety being put at risk.

        Fuck that noise, quite frankly.

        • Psycho Milt

          You’re simply being obtuse for effect. It’s not hard, in fact it’s so simple I haven’t hesitated to declare you obtuse.

          As you point out, laws define actions as crimes. People who commit those crimes are, well duh-uh, criminals. No need for pedantic quibbling about laws, trials, convictions, presumption of innocence and any other irrelevant smokescreens you’d like to bring into it.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Yeah yeah milt heard you the first time.

            You’re bringing your own little bag of obtuse to the party too.

            Your definition of criminal is broad enough that I bet you are already a criminal anyway. Along with everyone else. So what’s the big fucking deal? That bullshit argument really is all you’ve got isn’t it?

            You don’t like that the government doesn’t pat you on the head and say ‘good parent’, even though it leaves you alone. So here you are having a big cry about it, and dismissing people as being obtuse and pedantic instead of making a case beyond the trivial.

          • Psycho Milt

            Yes, I’m a criminal multiple times over, as no doubt you are too. Why this depressing evidence of legislative stupidity should be seen as an encouragement to pass yet more idiotic laws making criminals of people for perfectly ordinary behaviour isn’t obvious, though. Please do enlighten me on the arguments for it.

            • lprent

              You are liable for charges anytime that you hit any other person, child or adult. You were before the section was removed and you are now. The police could and did exercise discretion about what they brought up on charges. Typically thumping kids with lumps of iron, horse whips , etc qualified in the polices eyes – then and now. They are the people that the police lay charges against.

              The only thing that got removed was a defense by child beaters that in the parent’s eyes what they were doing was ‘reasonable’. Since some people seem to find it reasonable to do rough surgery with prepubescent girls clitoris (for instance), I hardly think it was a good section of law.

              I’d prefer to rely on what the police and judges feel is unreasonable. Which is the way the law lies now.

              The Family Fist beatup on the repeal of this section was to put it mildly, dishonest, and showed a strong ability to lie or an abysmal ignorance of law. It appears that is still the case.

              • Graeme

                Whether you’re liable to charged isn’t really relevant. Before the amendment, you weren’t liable to be convicted.

                Parents who smacked before the law change had a defence, the existence of that defence meant they weren’t breaking the law and weren’t committing crimes.

                Now, parents who smack don’t have a defence, are breaking the law and are committing crimes.

                One can view this change as a good thing or a bad thing. In this thread at least, I haven’t posited a view on the matter. But this is the legal situation.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Because when you craft laws with enough loopholes to exclude all the perfectly ordinary behaviour, you inevitably let some of the shit you want to get caught in the net through.

            So, we have a police force with discretion about charging, a presumption of innocence, and jury trials to prevent ‘normal behaviour’ from actually resulting in a criminal conviction.

            It only looks stupid if you ignore, (and sorry to be pedantic again), the fact, that you are not actually criminalised by the law until a court convicts you.

            So the balance involved is between:

            letting some people get away with things we rather they didn’t,


            having some people feel that they are ‘criminals’, even though the legal system would never convict them, and the law isn’t intended to convict them.

          • Psycho Milt

            Sounds like an argument for making everything illegal and letting the cops and courts sort it out. Personally, I’d prefer it if politicians simply stopped making ordinary behaviour illegal.

        • Graeme

          What goalposts?

          I came here and made a statement. The statement was in response to an implied claim that people who smacked were not criminals.

          That statement was that people who smack children are criminals.

          You seem aghast at the prospect. Perhaps I can ask now you a question: why don’t you want the smacking of children to be criminal?

          • Pascal's bookie

            The goal posts shift between saying that a person is criminalised, and saying that actions are criminalised. I still don’t think it’s the same thing.

            “Colloquially we might say that anyone that has done such an act is a criminal, but if I understand your quoted statements above, then according the rule of law, a person is treated as innocent until proven guilty, presumably in a court. So that, legally speaking, would be where the criminalising of a person takes place. Prior to, or absent that, under the rule of law, a person is legally considered to be innocent”

            Am I wrong here?

          • Graeme


            Being a criminal (a person who has committed a crime) and having the legal system treat you as innocent (a person not yet convicted of a crime) are not mutually exclusive things.

            And being a criminal (a person who has committed a crime) and being a convicted criminal (a person who has been proven in a court of law to have committed a crime) are different.

            You are right that it is probably better to refer to the law as criminalising behaviour or actions than people. It just follows as a matter of logic that someone who behaves contrary to this is a criminal. If you prefer to look at it as:

            parents who smack their children commit a crime;

            instead of

            parents who smack their children are criminals

            then I guess I can see a small distinction. For me, the two statements are pretty much identical.

          • Pascal's bookie

            Cool. Can you see a bigger distinction, (and one with a fair amount of political and rhetorical baggage attached), between:

            the government has made light smacking technically illegal


            the government is treating good parents like criminals

          • Graeme

            Of course.

            I’d note that smacking isn’t just technically illegal, but illegal – as Sue Bradford herself said on Morning Report yesterday – Sean Plunket seemed incredibly surprised when she pulled that one out.

            Not too sure that what “the government” does or has done is too relevant (at least in response to my claims, which I tried to make about “the law”). I’d also note that the post never limited it to good parents, the discussion was aimed at parents who smack.

            The law holds that parents who smack are criminals, even if the police and the legal system never get so far as treating them as such.

          • Pascal's bookie

            “The law holds that parents who smack are criminals, even if the police and the legal system never get so far as treating them as such.”

            I guess my problem with this is that it implies that either:

            a) the police and the legal system are not doing their job of dealing with criminals,

            or that;

            b) being a ‘criminal’ does not necessarily mean you are the sort of person that the police and the legal system are intending to catch and deal with.

            I suspect that b) is closer to the truth of how the system actually operates, and that this is a feature, not a bug.

            If that is the case, and given the loaded nature of the word ‘criminal’ and what most people think about when they hear the word, then I think it’s a more dishonest use of rhetoric to say that:

            “this law criminalises parents”

            than it is say that

            “you only really get ‘criminalised’ when convicted by the courts”?

    • If it is just about your feelings of guilt…

      Was there ever a wet liberal who didn’t fancy himself a top amateur psychologist?

  20. millsy 20

    Hey Milt,

    Why do you hit your kids. Is it because you are sexually frustrated and would like to explore bondage?

    • Why do you write deranged, abusive and irrelevant comments on people’s blog posts? Is it because you’re incapable of formulating an argument?

      • Redbaiter 20.1.1

        “Is it because you’re incapable of formulating an argument?”

        That is exactly why it is Milt.

        Maybe now you’re beginning to understand what its like to have a point of view the left don’t approve of.

        Niney five per cent abuse, and then they whine like children when they get a bit back.

  21. Rodel 21

    The best way-really – to accommodate the pro slapppers and their propensity for genetic violence is to allow for regulated and carefully measured punishment to be applied by electric shock guns.( Sort of mini Tazers).

    Punishment would be then regulated and within the bounds of reasonableness- as prescribed by statute. There would be no need to employ expensive lawyers to argue what is reasonable as it will have already be ascertained.

    Perhaps 20 volts ffor the misdemeanor of not tidying your room; 30 volts for expletives; 40 volts for answering back to parents or teachers and 100 volts for really serious stuff-(say denying the existence of god or worse).

    We would also need age conditions. Perhaps just a maximum of one shock a day for under four year olds- a maximum of 2 shocks daily for for 4-10 years olds etc and so on……When a child reaches 18 they could be given the Tazer to use on their parents.

    Larry- Larry I’m kidding -really! I’m not serious!

  22. Rodel 22

    But seriously folks.
    Intelligent people can manage their kids verbally. People who have tertiary education are usually adept at this, wheras less educated people find it more difficult and rely on physical and action oriented responses to keep their kids in line- often these responses are physical rather than cognitive and its the only strategy available to some people.They have never learnt any better methods.

    It’s all very well for those who are skilled, to be critical of ‘the other half”who rely on physicality to manage child behaviour.

    Forget referendums and vitriolic interchanges. There is a need to show and teach humans how to raise kids without resorting to animalistic instincts or primitive methods and introduce some civilisation into child rearing. Has anybody got positive suggestions as to how this can be done on national scale?

    Please -no snide useless comments about left, right or green politics.

    • Anita 22.1

      Rodel writes

      Intelligent people can manage their kids verbally. People who have tertiary education are usually adept at this, wheras less educated people find it more difficult and rely on physical and action oriented responses to keep their kids in line


      I won’t even start on the conflation of education and intelligence, and I’ll try to leave the painful elitism alone, but…

      Do you have any evidence for tertiary education being a factor which reduces physical discipline of children by their parents?

      From my reading on the topic there are many educated people who have taken a conscious considered choice to use physical discipline. I may think they’re wrong-headed, but it’s not ill-educated stupidity or animalistic instincts.

  23. Rodel 23

    Conflation- Good word -Had to look that up.
    My views are based on experience not readings-trust me. I’ve seen kids hit by experts. Hey I wasn’t looking for snideness and wasn’t trying to be snide.And is elite a bad word now? Incidently I didn’t use the word stupidity- try reading again positively.
    Also- We are looking for answers here or are we just points scoring?

    • Rodel 23.1

      re Anita’s reply
      On reflection perhaps it was painful elitism for which I apologise but using the label, ‘wrong headed’ doesn’t help.
      I still think there are parents who believe kids should be hit because they don’t know how else to manage and the solution remains one of parent education (perhaps tertiary is the wrong adjective) but it includes the welcome current leadership from political leaders, Goff and I hate to say it Key.
      Look, it’s nice to see him sort of , y’know making a decision.

    • serpico 24.1

      Did you have a Helen moment milt?

    • Put the comment above the one I was trying to reply to by mistake; found I couldn’t delete it; came to the conclusion “Nah, fuck it” and left. I guess Pita Sharples is probably wondering why people like me get to go to university instead of the Maori kids.

  24. Mr Mason 25

    The law is wrong.

  25. wtl 26

    Does anyone know what Bill English’s opinion on this law is? Meaning, might he change it back if he rolled John Key and became PM?

  26. millsy 27


    Why do you support a law which allowed parents to hit their children with things like vacuum cleaner tubes and rubber hoses?

    Do you think it is OK for children to be repeately hit and thrashed and be denied all legal protection?

  27. Ari 28

    My Dad had a novel way, it didn’t involve smacking-but he made sure i received a VERY sore bottom when i needed one!!, he would place me across his lap and with a small piece of sandpaper rub my bare bottom, hard, for a minute with it, at first it wasn’t too bad but after a few minutes my bum felt like it was on fire!!-VERY sore!!. After i was put in a corner hands on the head with my poor red sore little bottom waving it about to cool it down!!-never worked!!. After half an hour he offered cream (which was very embarrassing-poking my bare bottom out while my Dad rubbed cream in it)!! but i’de have done ANYTHING to ease the stinging!! besides he often saw my bare bum around the house so it was silly being shy.Then “sorry Daddy” and i wanted a cuddle. It worked a real treat!!…..still have a bum that’s marked though!!!!.

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