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Domestic CP - December 1999

Corpun file 4755 at

Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, 15 December 1999

Smacking should be illegal: commissioner

Wellington: Commissioner for Children Roger McClay wants the smacking of children to be outlawed and he plans to seek support for the move from the Government early next year.

Mr McClay said yesterday he planned to target all forms of child abuse next year, with smacking high on the list.

Although he had never publicly stated that smacking, or "belting" as he called it, should be banned, he said it was time New Zealand considered making all forms of physical punishment illegal.

"Hopefully, we might emulate the six or seven other countries in the world which have moved to say `no, children are special and must not be violated and we will not allow them to be the only group in society which you are legally allowed to hit'."

Though the commission usually took its lead from the public, "this is one of those issues where we are going to have to take the lead over the public's opinion", he said.

Youth Affairs Minister Laila Harre personally believed it was unacceptable to hit anybody and it would be timely to look at the laws concerning the disciplining of children.

Ms Harre said parents who hit in a cold, calculated way should not be protected.

McClay hopes to persuade MPs from all political parties to form a caucus next year where the issues concerning children could be debated.

Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland and Norway have banned any physical punishment of children.

Last year, the Christian Heritage Party called moves to discourage smacking an "attack on parenting". - NZPA

Corpun file 4754 at

Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, 16 December 1999

Smacking a rights issue

Rotorua: Making it illegal for parents to smack their children equates to the Government dictating parent responsibility, a police chief said yesterday.

This week, Children's Commissioner Roger McClay called for a ban on corporal punishment and changes to Section 59 of the Crimes Act which allows parents to smack their children.

Sergeant Jim Harvey, of Rotorua's police youth aid section, said children had the same rights as adults but parents had a function to raise their children to become good adults.

"Changing the law takes away the right for a parent to make an informed decision. The Act says it's appropriate, in certain circumstances, to smack a child, it does not say adults can hit a kid with a softball bat," he said.

A smack often left fewer psychological effects on a child than other forms of discipline such as grounding, he believed.

"Children can associate a quick smack with what they have done wrong and then it is all over with."

If a change to the law went ahead, he said the Government would be responsible for an increase in the number of 13 and 14-year-olds running wild.

Extensive research in America showed juvenile crime rates were directly linked to a lack of discipline, parental support and good communication.

However, Mr McClay emphasised any change would need to be "non-prosecutory", meaning parents would not be taken to court for a mere smack.

Mr McClay said Parliament needed to lead the way and change the law, but to exclude "reasonable force" in domestic discipline from it, accompanied by a public education campaign to change attitudes. - NZPA

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