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Latta Says He Wants To Find Out Whether Smacking Law Is Working

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

(Inserts Family First reaction)

Wellington, Sept 8 NZPA - Well-known television host, author and clinical psychologist Nigel Latta says he only agreed to help review policies around the smacking issue if he was free to speak his mind about the conclusions.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday released the Terms of Reference for a review of policies and procedures used by Child, Youth and Family and the police when investigating smacking.

Mr Latta, Social Development Ministry chief executive Peter Hughes and Police Commissioner Howard Broad will conduct the review.

Mr Latta was opposed to the law change and voted no in the recent related referendum.

The law as it stands bans smacking for the purposes of correction but the police have the discretion not to prosecute for inconsequential smacks.

In a referendum last month, 87 percent of those who voted said no to the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

The review will look at procedures, including the referral process and identify any changes that are necessary or desirable.

It will also "consider any other matters which, in the reviewers' opinion, will assist in ensuring that parents are treated as Parliament intended".

Mr Latta said he did not believe that a parent smacking their child, in the common sense understanding of what that meant, should be subject to criminal investigation.

The debate on the issue had become polarised with both sides reducing complex social and moral issues into simplistic extremes that had consumed time, energy and money, when everyone agreed children needed protection from abuse.

He intended to find out whether the law meant good parents were being subjected to investigations that were intrusive or traumatic.

Green Party MP Sue Bradford, who drafted the law change that banned smacking, said she hoped Mr Latta would work with the team in a professional and unbiased way.

"I can understand that Mr Key wanted someone who believes (parents) should have the legal right to bring up their children using physical discipline," she said on Radio New Zealand.

"I do understand Mr Latta is a professional. I just hope he shows that his work on this review team will be fair, professional and unbiased."

The Family First organisation, which campaigned for parents' right to smack their children, welcomed Mr Latta's appointment but said it was concerned because he had said he was not going to meet any lobby groups.

"Family First has been documenting substantive evidence of good families being investigated and prosecuted as a result of the law, and it is essential that Mr Latta meet these families and views the evidence," said Family First's national director Bob McCoskrie.

"If the review committee is simply going to view reports of the police and CYF, which have attempted to mask the real effect of this law, then nothing will be achieved."

Mr Key said he phoned Mr Latta and asked him to take part in the review.

His "direct and honest approach" was well-known and he would be a "clear advocate for parents".

The inclusion of Mr Latta on the review team showed the Government was "not there to sweep the issue under the carpet", Mr Key said.

In such a "polarising debate" as the smacking one it was "almost impossible to get someone neutral".

Mr Key repeated his belief that the law was working as intended and said the review was to assure parents the Government would monitor its implementation.

Mr Latta hosted the TV One programme The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show.

The review team will report back by December 1.

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