Lyndon Hood - Weblogger, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Punishment: Known by psychologists to be the worse method of shaping behaviour available

By way of linking to the inaugural kiwi blog carnival (do take a look)...

I don't know if they're talking in shorthand, but Phil Etc and Big News both seem to think that repealing section 59 is to disallow a defense of reasonable force against child assault charges. This isn't really right.

What people are complaining about is the defense of reasonable force in the "correction" of your child. If we did nothing but repeal section 59 (which I understood was the deal), the reasonableness tests that apply to normal assaults would still apply.

Think of it with respect to an adult. If someone you know were derterminedly trying to stick a fork into a power socket, you would be utterly justified in pulling them away. If they were being that stupid, you could also give them a really good slap. But if you broke their arm, that would likely be considered too much.

Of course, adults are generally more sensible than that and have a tendency to hit back.

For all that opponents of section 59 forget this, juries would still get to decide what was reasonable. Not the police or, as Mr Maxim's staggering initial suggestion had it, judges.

Whether this option is better than clarifying in law what is reasonable or adding instructions for the jury (perhaps emphasising that just because it's discipine doesn't make it reasonable) is of course a matter for debate.

But something patently needs to be done. The law as it stands reads okay but it doesn't work. My jury experience would indicate that juries really are sincere about doing the job that they are supposed to but maybe when you throw in kids and reasonableness they need a bit more help.