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Report Finds No Evidence Of Needless Prosecutions For Smacking

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Nov 11 NZPA - A review of anti-smacking legislation which found no evidence parents were being subjected to "unnecessary state intervention" for lightly smacking their children confirms the law change was a positive step, the Families Commission says.

Tabled in Parliament today, the report used police and Child, Youth and Family (CYF) data to reach its conclusions.

Data indicated a significant rise in reporting, apprehension and prosecution of violent crime, as well as notifications of concerns about children.

But, in the two years since the anti-smacking law was introduced, it did not disclose "any changes" in the way police or CYF responded to reports of light smacking, or minor acts of physical discipline.

Acting deputy chief commissioner David Smyth said the report was a welcome confirmation that the law change had not resulted in a rash of investigations or prosecutions of good parents who occasionally smack.

He said the commission also welcomed the finding that much of the increase in reported and prosecuted family violence was due to improved police procedures, and increased public awareness and intolerance of violence.

Barnardos chief executive Murray Edridge said the review's findings were unsurprising.

"It shows the law is working well and as intended. Only serious levels of violence and assault are being prosecuted."

The report, written by Social Development Ministry chief executive Peter Hughes, could not discount the possibility that there may have been "isolated incidents" where the practice of reporting, apprehension or prosecuting differed.

Mr Hughes said there was a trend that indicated many New Zealanders wanted to see victims of such violence made safe, and the perpetrators held to account.

"It is equally clear many New Zealanders do not wish to see families being the subject of needless intervention from government agencies as a result of light smacking being reported to those agencies."

In a referendum this year, 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 was to look at procedures, including the referral process and to identify any changes necessary or desirable.

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

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