Wellington, Dec 7 NZPA - A review of how the anti-smacking legislation is working has found no evidence that police and welfare staff have been responding inappropriately or out proportion to concerns about child safety.
The review team included well-known television host, author and clinical psychologist Nigel Latta who was opposed to the law change removing the defence of reasonable force when charged with assaulting a child.
The report today said Mr Latta, Social Development Ministry chief executive Peter Hughes and Police Commissioner Howard Broad found the police and Child Youth and Family (CYF) have effective guidelines for dealing with complaints, but more could be done to reassure parents that they would not be criminalised or unduly investigated for a light smack.
Prime Minister John Key said the findings reinforced his view that the law was working as Parliament intended it.
Mr Latta had personally examined several individual cases highlighted in the media by advocates for a law change.
"Mr Latta has found that the police and CYF responded appropriately and proportionately to the child safety concerns that were raised," Mr Key said.
The report recommended:
* A parent support helpline be set up so that parents with concerns about how they were being treated can be helped;
* Guidelines be published for social workers dealing with child abuse reports that involved smacking;
* Police and others should be required to tell parents what to expect and what rights they have when dealing with the police or CYF; and
* The collection of information on the application of the new law be collected so there was a clearer picture of how the law was operating.
Mr Key said the Government did not want to see good parents criminalised for a light smack and said the law would continue to be monitored.
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 results in August, 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?"
Before the review 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 what were intrusive or traumatic.
(Lead to follow)
NZPA PAR il kn