10th Police Review of implementation of Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007

25 August 2012

The New Zealand Police released their 10th report  on implementation of the 2007 law change that banned physical punishment of children in New Zealand.  Assistant Commissioner of Police Malcolm Burgess says the review findings are consistent with previous reviews.

"We continue to be happy with the way the legislation is being applied by police staff" said Assistant Commissioner Burgess. "Numbers of events in most of the categories, including smacking have trended up. We attribute this to the more widespread use of the legislation by police as it becomes embedded in our enforcement practices and also to an increase in reporting as public awareness of the legislation grows”.

This review covers the period 22 June 2011 to 21 December 2011.  Police attended 500 child assault events of which 23 were “smacking”, 45 were “minor acts of physical discipline” and 344 were “other child assaults”.  In 88 cases no offence was disclosed.

Police define:

  • “smacking” as a slap with an open hand on buttocks or legs that does not result in any form of injury
  •  “minor act of physical discipline” as a slap with an open hand on any other part of the body, including the face, that does not result in any injury
  •  “child assault” as any form of assault that results in injury.

The context and surrounding circumstances are also considered as cases are categorised.

Of the smacking incidents, three resulted in prosecutions, and of the minor acts of physical discipline, six resulted in prosecutions.   In most of the cases that resulted in guilty findings a sentence of some months’ supervision resulted.   In many of the cases that did not result in prosecution, families were referred to other agencies.

The full police report provides comparisons over reporting periods.  The upward trend in events attended is small in most categories.

EPOCH New Zealand is also satisfied with the way the law is being implemented and pleased that both public awareness of the legislation and discomfort with assaults on children appear to be growing.