This news has just come down the wire. The New Zealand parliament has overwhelming amended the legislation on assaulting a child to remove the defence of reasonable force used for the purposes of correction.
Now, on the face of it removing a defence of reasonable use of force is puzzling. The margin was overwhelming, 113-8, so you’ve got to ask, What were they thinking?
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia told Parliament that defence needed to be struck from the law books because of cases like Ngatikaura Ngati. The child’s mother and her partner are awaiting sentence after being found guilty of manslaughter.
“The High Court in Auckland heard how a boy of 3 years old was subjected to regular beatings using a baseball bat, a vacuum cleaner pipe, rods and a wooden spoon, and punched repeatedly in the face,” Mrs Turia said.
“The couple convicted of manslaughter used section 59 of the Crimes Act as their defence, claiming that they only ever used reasonable force. As long as we have people who are prepared to administer beatings so savage that a child’s blood splatters on to the ceiling and who are then able to defend that callous brutality as a reasonable punishment, then this nation is in deep trouble.”
But this doesn’t make any sense, surely. For one thing, they were convicted under the old laws, which suggests that they were adequate, and surely, the example she offers is not reasonable use of force.
If this is what passes for thinking in New Zealand, then the nation is in deep trouble.
The NZ Herald reports that a man has been convicted under the new law for smacking his son. The man apparantly grabbed his eight year old son by the shoulder hard enough to bruise him, and put him over his knee and smacked him on the buttocks with an open hand. A criminal conviction for such low level violence seems a bit harsh, but the sentence the court handed out was quite lenient (nine months supervision and anger management), so I don’t think it’s a very grave miscarriage of justice.