Wellington, Dec 7 NZPA - It is up to parents whether they lightly smack their children or not and the law will be changed if they are prosecuted for it, Prime Minister John Key said today.
Speaking at the release of a report on how the anti-smacking legislation is working, Mr Key said that as far as he was concerned light smacking was a parental choice.
The legislation review found there was no evidence that police and welfare staff have responded inappropriately or out of proportion to concerns about child safety after changes to the law.
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.
Technically any assault on a child is illegal, but the law says the police should not pursue the charge if it is inconsequential.
Mr Key said the law was working as intended.
"Lightly smacking a child will be in the course of parenting for some parents and I think that's acceptable," Mr Key said.
Asked if he had just said it was acceptable to lightly smack a child, Mr Key replied "Yes, I think so" and said the law was clear that such matters should not be treated as a criminal offence.
"It's up to individual parents to decide how they're going to parent their children. My view is that it will depend on the circumstances and how you want to raise your child," Mr Key said.
"Some people will continue to lightly smack their child for correction, some will not. It is up to them to decide."
Mr Latta said smacking was becoming less common as most parents realised it did not work and looked for other ways to discipline children.
Mr Key repeated today that if good parents were criminalised for lightly smacking their children the law would be changed.