Saturday, September 12, 2009

Section 59 and Smacking

Section 59 of our Crimes Act demonstrates the futility of human law making. It was a compromise put together by our previous and current prime minister (both recognised as excellent political leaders). I am really impressed with they way they could put four contradictory clauses together one after the other and call it a good solution.

Section 59 states:

  1. Every parent of a child and every person in the place of a parent of the child is justified in using force if the force used is reasonable in the circumstances and is for the purpose of -

    • preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
    • preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
    • preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or
      disruptive behaviour; or
    • performing the normal daily tasks that are incidental to good care and parenting.

  2. Nothing in subsection (1) or in any rule of common law justifies the use of force for the purpose of correction.

  3. Subsection (2) prevails over subsection (1).

  4. To avoid doubt, it is affirmed that the Police have the discretion not to prosecute complaints against a parent of a child or person in the place of a parent of a child in relation to an offence involving the use of force against a child, where the offence is considered to be so inconsequential that there is no public interest in proceeding with a prosecution.

Subsection 1 hints that force can be used when a child is misbehaving. Subsection 2 says that force cannot be used for correction. Subsection 3 says that the second takes precedence over the first. Brilliant!! So what does subsection 1 mean.

The politicians then crowned their achievement by adding an instruction to the police in the middle of a section of the Crimes Act which is setting our possible legal defences. The problem is that police practices are governed by the Police Act 1958 and not the Crimes Act.

Section 59 is a wonderful demonstration of the power of democratic compromise. If we had a few more laws like this, Christians might wake up an realise that democracy is a sham and start thinking about a better way.

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