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Guidelines on investigating smacking complaints likely
Updated at 8:44am on 24 August 2009
The Government looks set to introduce new guidelines for police and social workers investigating smacking complaints, in response to last week’s referendum.
Cabinet will consider its response on Monday to the result of the non-binding referendum, in which almost 88% answered ‘no’ to the question “Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?”
Prime Minister John Key has ruled out changing the child discipline law but says Cabinet will look at proposals to give parents comfort that the law will be administered “in the way that I believe the compromise set out it should be.”
Radio New Zealand‘s political staff say the proposals could include new guidelines for police and Child Youth and Family, and making it clear that complaints about smacking are not treated the same as child abuse cases.
Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie says the referendum result was an unequivocal call for a law change and is calling on cabinet ministers to challenge Mr Key over the issue.
Labour’s deputy leader Annette King says the law is due to be reviewed at the end of the year, and the Government should think carefully before making any moves.
Children’s Commissioner, John Angus told Morning Report the law is working by giving children protection, while Family Court lawyer Catriona MacLennan said no further guidelines are needed as police already have discretion in smacking cases.
Preliminary results of the referendum, released on Friday night, show 1,420,959 voters (87.6%) said “No”, while 191,495 (11.81%) answered “Yes” to the referendum question.
The referendum was organised by opponents of a change to Section 59 of the Crimes Act that prevents parents from using force against their children for the purposes of correction. It allows a defence of reasonable force used in order to prevent harm to a child.