Monday, August 24, 2009

More thoughts on that referendum ...

1. John Key and other supporters of the Bradford amendment to the Crimes Act keep referring to the fact that very few parents have been prosecuted since the law change. Police have looked into 279 reported “events” but there have been only 13 prosecutions. This figure is cited as proof that the law is working exactly as intended; in other words, that “good” parents aren’t being criminalised. But that argument can be turned around. It can be used just as effectively to demonstrate that the law didn’t need to be changed in the first place; that there is no epidemic of parental violence against children that required heavy-handed state intervention. The repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act was a solution in search of a problem. What’s more, it’s likely that the 13 cases that resulted in prosecutions were clearcut cases of assault that would have resulted in charges whether or not the law had been changed. Family lawyer Catriona McLennan, a supporter of the law change, seemed to acknowledge as much this morning when she said on Morning Report that Christchurch father James Mason’s punishment of his four-year-old son would have been treated as assault even under the previous law (a point also made by the police themselves at the time Mason was prosecuted). So what has the law change actually achieved, apart from mightily provoking an overwhelming majority of conscientious and loving parents?

2. Does the government now risk tying itself in knots finding convoluted formulas and guidelines to make a bad law palatable, simply because John Key is determined not to back down? Wouldn’t it be simpler to acknowledge that National badly cocked this one up and start again?

3. One News on Friday night devoted more than eight and half minutes to a studio interview with referendum opponents Sue Bradford and someone called Anton Blank. An interview with referendum organiser Larry Baldock, conducted in a noisy, crowded room, ran for less than three minutes. Did someone say media bias? Nah. Get away with you.

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