Despite claims to the contrary, no parent has ever been convicted for lightly smacking their child, or had their child removed by CYF. Indeed, CYF has guidelines on what a light smack is: "an open palm, sharp slap leaving no enduring mark or injury to the child." By itself "this is most unlikely to constitute physical abuse . . . and there is unlikely to be any basis for further action".I don't share Laws' confidence in the ability of CYF to discern. And there are certainly many cases of families having children removed once they come to the attention of the agency. Families who feel badly aggrieved. Families dragged through the court system. I sat through the court case of one such father preosecuted for 'shoving' his son.
So read the guidelines for social workers - published by CYF in December 2009 - as part of the prime ministerial review of how section 59 was working. It was authored by the chief of police, the head of CYF, and prominent child psychologist Nigel Latta.
And it's the reason why - despite all the clamour - neither Prime Minister John Key nor Parliament shows any appetite for revisiting the smacking issue. Indeed, recent court judgments - one involving the Court of Appeal - have emphasised CYF's operating instructions. The courts have got involved only when other elements of alleged abuse are at play, or there are demonstrable injuries.
So what does this mean - in practical terms - these school holidays? First, the anti-smacking legislation - or the section 59 amendment as it is more technically known - is, effectively, a non-issue. Beat your child, and you are rightly in trouble. Lightly smack them, and you're fine. Never use a belt, stick or similar - only an open palm is OK.
It's your child, your circumstance, your choice.
It's easy for Laws to blithely counsel action you feel is your right. He used to do the same when he had his talkback show. Somehow though I don't think "Michael Laws said it was OK" will have any legal standing as a defence.