John Boscawen’s private members’ bill to amend s59 of the Crimes Act has been drawn from the ballot.
Essentially it would take us back to square one in the smacking/child assault issue. The bill would allow parents and adults to assault* children for the purposes of correction as long as the level of the force is reasonable.
‘Reasonable force’ would be defined in the legislation, whereas before it was defined in case law. The definition of reasonable force in the bill is pretty restrictive (weapons, cruelty, and lasting physical damage are out). But the definition is pretty restrictive in case law too and we still had people getting away with bashing their kids using s59 as a defence, which is why Bradford’s amendment was introduced in the first place.
I think we have to ask two things.
The answer to both questions looks like yes, and that’s not good enough. Leave the law like it is, anything else will just end up once again offering legal sanctuary to people who beat up kids.
This Bill will only get past its first reading if National backs it. The Greens and Maori Party will certainly oppose it, meaning even if Labour backs it there isn’t a majority without National. So, the pressure goes on Key to keep his word and retain the law that is working or bow to public pressure even though he knows it will endanger children. It’s an unenviable position.
*don’t get upset about the use of the word assault there, in the law the slightest touch constitutes an assault.