Jimmy Mason of Christchurch New Zealand faces trial on criminal assault charges for abusing his three year old son. Mason says that he "flicked" his son's ear as a disciplinary measure, after the three year old had injured Mason's even younger son. Though Mason allegedly only flicked the ear of the older son, he faces charges for assaulting both sons.
Presumably, the younger son was traumatized by this criminal ear flicking.
At issue is Section 59 of the New Zealand criminal code, which, depending on how one reads it, criminalizes any force whatsoever against a child, for disciplinary purposes.
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 –
(a) preventing or minimising harm to the child or another person; or
(b) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in conduct that amounts to a criminal offence; or
(c) preventing the child from engaging or continuing to engage in offensive or disruptive behaviour; or
(d) 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.
To use a term of legal art, that is one seriously fucked up law.
Sections 2 and 3 take away most of what's granted in section 1, criminalizing any corrective force, unless, I suppose, the correction is applied during a criminal or harmful act. So the parent could pick up the child, a forceful action I suppose, while the child was beating another kid, but couldn't carry the child off if the beating had already stopped.
Mind you, picking someone up and carrying him away is a forceful act. If you do it to an adult, you'll be prosecuted for assault or kidnapping.
Section 4 is simply an opt-out clause for the police or prosecutors to avoid the embarrassment and shame of prosecuting parents for trivial uses of force.
Yet as we see in the case of Jimmy Mason, prosecutors and police often know no shame. The same could be said for the politicians who drafted and passed this ridiculous law.