July 2005

Recent Court Cases

Two recent court cases have stimulated public discussion.  They had very different outcomes. In one the father of a four-year-old had smacked his son on the bare buttocks and caused bruising.  The jury in this case found the father guilty of assault, dismissing section 59 as a defence.  The father was sentenced to 360 hours of community service, and access to his child was denied.  The jury was right - the force used was not reasonable - it should never be acceptable to intentionally bruise a child. The second case involved an older child, aged 12, punished on two separate occasions by his mother who used a cane on one occasion and a riding crop on another.  In this case the jury decided that the force used was reasonable.  Some members of the public agreed, of 50 members of the public phoning into a newspaper only 15 thought the mother should not have been acquitted (Timaru Herald, 24 May 2005).  Others have been appalled and the case has fuelled calls for repeal or amendment of section 59 Crimes Act 1961