20 December 2008 new section 59 working well

Yesterday the New Zealand Police released the results of their latest six month review of the implementation of the Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007.

The report confirms that the Police are applying the law sensibly.  There has been a decrease in the total number of child assault events attended by Police during the review period including the number of child assault events involving smacking and minor acts of physical discipline.  Prosecution rates related to the minor child assault events remain extremely low (5 during the review period).

The full report can be viewed on http://www.police.govt.nz/resources/2008/section-59-activity-review/section59_crime_amendment_act_2007.pdf

The predication made by groups opposing law reform that the new law would criminalise great numbers of good parents has simply not eventuated.  Their current claim that the law is not working because child abuse has not decreased is misleading.  We do not know whether child abuse rates have changed.  Statistics are not good enough to tell us that.  EPOCH New Zealand and other supporting the law change did not claim that repealing the old section 59 would eliminate child abuse.  Child abuse is a complex problem requiring multiple and complex interventions to reduce it.  Children who suffer physical abuse are most frequently hurt in the course of discipline.  In the long term changing attitudes about the use of physical discipline is likely to play a part in efforts to reduce child abuse.