Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pot calling kettle black

Sue Bradford gave a speech last week primarily promoting her section 59 repeal bill which should have its final reading before Parliament rises for the Xmas break. An interesting speech, highly readable, quite thought-provoking and disturbing in parts. I have symapthy for Bradford's opposition to the fundamentalists stance and material but that isn't the main issue. I remain unconvinced that passing her bill will make one iota of difference to the worst offenders and too much power will be conferred on the police and CYFS.

She also touches however on the Kahui case.

Fallout from the Kahui tragedy

I’d like to turn now, just briefly, to an associated topic, which is the political fallout from the tragic death of the Kahui twins. There was something about the fact that it was twins who were killed that touched everyone very deeply, no matter our political persuasion, yet of course the responses are highly politicised.

The nadir in the media came with Emerson’s cartoon in the ‘Herald’ depicting a level of overt racism against Maori I can’t remember seeing for decades, and in Parliament, from National using the tragedy as an opportunity for a renewed attack on an already inadequate benefit system.

The ideology of ‘blame the victim, not the system’ is alive and well in Aotearoa today. As usual, Maori and beneficiaries are right up front on the receiving end.

While I’m not for a moment suggesting that whoever killed these babies shouldn’t be held to account for their actions, at the same time it is alarming the way in which this particular case has been used as an opportunity for a new assault by the Right on tangata whenua and the welfare system....

What we shouldn’t be doing is removing benefits and income-related rents, as Rodney Hide suggested in the House when debating the Kahui case. The consequences of that course of action are almost unimaginable in terms of a total descent into crime, violence, neglect and children who run the risk of being literally discarded, as we see in societies where infanticide or the killing of street kids are everyday evils.

After dwelling at length on the hysteria generated against her bill by various Right groups this is pretty rich.

16 comments:

Adonis said...

The connection between her attack on the welfare reforms the ACT party represent and the defence of her bill are quite different in my opinion. The extremes she is depicting are afterall, essentially out of the control of the state. Whereas the extremes the right are depicting of her repeal of this bill, are under the control of the state, and therefore mostly fraudulent.

Repeal of the bill is a good thing, you are most likely correct in saying it will make no noticable difference in the overall statistics, but it does add consistancy to the law. Currently parents who abuse their children can be protected by the bill. Acts that would have had them sent to jail if used against adults can result in a monetary fine instead. Does this make sense to you? does it make sense not repeal the bill based on the fear that police and other authorities will fail to use their common sense? Mistakes happen in any system sure, But I don't think that should be a motivating factor in this case.

This is a common sense decision, not an "Anti Smacking Policy".

Brian Smaller said...

Sorry Adonis - don't agree. This bill will make me a criminal if I smack my children. Unlike Sue Bradford, I know the difference between a smack and a smack in the head. Parents who abuse their children already face sanction under the law.

Adonis said...

"If I had been seeking to outlaw smacking, I would have written quite a different Bill, stating that outright, and delineating associated penalties. "

"It is my hope that, through minor amendments, and through the official commentary to the Bill, that we will be able to provide this reassurance. All along, it has been clear to most of us that there is no way that, should my Bill become law, the Police would prosecute or the courts convict parents who physically restrain their children from touching a power point or crossing the road, or who put their child into their bedroom for a spell of time out. This is an absurd and patent nonsense that is being spread around the country as cover for some of the darker messages I’ve alluded to earlier. "

"On the question of light and occasional smacking itself, what I continue to try to stress to concerned parents and MPs is that police prosecution guidelines already contain a number of protections. For example, prosecution must be in the public interest, the facts of the case must be examined, and discretion can be used if an offence is trivial or minor, and of course many complaints do not result in prosecution. "

... just so you don't have to go looking for the quotes that matter.

I was smacked as a child, and I don't feel like I've suffered any ill-effects from it, I do not agree with the MP's obvious personal opinion that all smacking is bad. However, the extreme you're expressing is unreasonable in our society.

The average speed limit in populated areas is 50kph. I usually do 60, and 99% of the rest of the population does the same, no-one gets prosecuted for that.

However, I once knew a teenaged girl who was held down by her parents and beaten because they thought she was possessed by a demon (admitedly this is her side of the story, I do not know what the "official" line was). They got off with a fine. I doubt the bill that the MP seeks to repeal had no say in the punishment they recieved. Reguardless of what the real story was, the system most definatly failed her, and I doubt this bill helped one bit.

Spam said...

adonis,

The police have said that repealing this law would require them to prosecute for smacking. Why do you want the police to use their discretion? Is that not up to the Courts?

I really don't see how this bill will reduce child abuse - all it will do is criminalise the acts of (some) largely good parents. Those people who *got off* with child abuse actually had their cases tested in a Court of Law. It was deemed to be *reasonable force*. Taking away the *reasonable force* clause is also taking away the discretion that you suggest will be shown.

Anonymous said...

See if I get this right! The Kahui tragedy is because the parents didn't have enough money to party with. And when we have drunken parents spending money on booze, parties and more booze and who are neglecting their kids the problem we need to deal with is that the benefits aren't high enough. I don't know if the benefits were high enough but apparently the parents were.

Adonis said...

Police already use discretion. As for the justice system, the only use for this bill is for parents who are guilty of genuinely abusing their children to get off with a smack on the wrists.

I do not beleive that if a parent is eventually brought before the justice system that they will be punished for acting in the best interest of their child.

When it comes down to it, this law change is about protecting children. Some children need protection from their parents. The parents of ones that don't need to be able to defend the methods they employ, and not be dependant on help from a law that can be used as an escape from justice. If I ever decide to have children, I will not base my decision to smack my children or not around whether I fear that the law will judge me guilty of abuse because of it - because I will only do it in the best interest of my children.

On a related note however, smacking may not be harmful, but nor is it nessesary. If any parent is unsure as to whether they can defend their own actions before the justice system (if the need arise, and every parent should in theory, otherwise abuse would be left unchecked); if they do not beleive that the justice system is fit to make that decision; then perhaps it's time for those parents to consider the alternatives.

spam said...

adonis wrote:
As for the justice system, the only use for this bill is for parents who are guilty of genuinely abusing their children to get off with a smack on the wrists.
Cite, please.

How many cases are there that you are aware of, where people have successfully managed to use the reasonable force clause to get away with it, when they have been genuinely and systematically abusing their children?

For bonus points, please explain why you believe that the Judge (and / or jury) was wrong in their findings that it was NOT reasonable force.

Adonis said...

You're twisting the intent of what I said. I was stating that I did not think that good parents would be unjustly punished if the law did not exist. If this is the point of the law then it isn't needed, and therefore it's only use is for those who wish to exploit it to defer punishment.

iiq374 said...

If this is the point of the law then it isn't needed, and therefore it's only use is for those who wish to exploit it to defer punishment.
Adonis - by your reasoning all specific defence clauses for all bills are unnecessary; it is obvious that the police will use their discretion not to prosecute when it is not in the public interest.

So the self-defence clauses under assault aren't necessary; oh thats right that has already been removed with a similar argument and we have already seen people get charged with assault for defending themselves.

Or how about we remove the protection for captains for retaining discipline on their ships - again not necessary?

The average speed limit in populated areas is 50kph. I usually do 60, and 99% of the rest of the population does the same, no-one gets prosecuted for that.
Again, wrong. People do get prosecuted for that. I know at least 3 people who have received fines for going 60. Also the main reason for that is due to the challenges they already receive in terms of equipment calibration and accuracy, not discretion as you would put it.

spam said...

adonis,

Not twisting it at all. You are saying that this law change is required, because there are lots of child abusers getting away with systematic abuse, due to the 'reasonable force' defence. I am just asking you to tell me how many of these abusers are getting away with it.

Adonis said...

"Repeal of the bill is a good thing, you are most likely correct in saying it will make no noticable difference in the overall statistics, but it does add consistancy to the law."

These were my exact words, I have _never_ used the word "required". I _never_ said _lots_ of parents were getting away with abuse. My statements are logical ones, though admitedly based on idealistic assumptions.

You _were_ twisting my words, and quite frankly, your attempt to add some kind of scoring system to the discussion is pretty low. you can disagree with my idealism if you like, I really don't care. I just don't beleive all the scare-mongering crap both sides are spitting out over this issue.

IIq374: Like I said in my original post, mistakes happen in any system. This will not change that fact, the difference will be who gets the short end of the stick. Adults, who are capable of defending themselves, or children who are not.

spam said...

adonis, you said:

As for the justice system, the only use for this bill is for parents who are guilty of genuinely abusing their children to get off with a smack on the wrists.

I like to think that one of the uses of the 'reasonable force' clause is to allow a defence for parents who are not genuinely abusing their children to escape prosecution. You seem to feel that it is not needed, because it can be at police discretion. I am asking you to back-up your statement quoted above, by providing some examples of why this change is required.

Again:
* How many genuine child abusers are effectively escaping convictions because of the 'reasonable force' clause?
* How big is the problem?
* Why can't the Courts assess what is 'reasonable force'?

Adonis said...

Did you not read the speech?

"Again:
* How many genuine child abusers are effectively escaping convictions because of the 'reasonable force' clause? "

I don't care. One would be too many.

"How big is the problem?"

You JUST asked that question.

"Why can't the Courts assess what is 'reasonable force'?"

Read the speech, pay close attention to the political section, in partcular the statements pertaining to amendments to the bill, I've quoted enough here already.

Don't beleive the hype.

spam said...

Which hype? Yours? Because I don't.

One too many? So having one child abuser escape prosecution is "one too many". Does the same "one to many" standard apply to the number of families ruined by being prosecuted for smacking?

adonis said...

I'm adding "hype" by saying that it adds consistancy to the law?

I'm adding "hype" by stating my opinion that it is adults not children who should have to stand up for themselves, and that this law change represents that notion?

...right.

iiq374 said...

Adonis - part of the issue I still see with your argument is around your belief that the police will be able to exercise their discretion correctly although you don't believe that the courts exercise an even more proscribed discretion correctly.

You are saying that an unwritten rule is going to be followed more consistently and more accurately than a written one. I really don't believe I want to live under "that" judicial system.