Smacking Cases

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NZ Herald 19 June 2012
Mum and dad – who are now grandparents – currently have custody of their daughter’s 8 year old son. They have had him since he was 3 months old. CYF also gave them custody of their niece (13). Their daughter had another child (girl) who was taken by CYF from the daughter at 9 months old. Mum and dad applied for custody of this 17 month old granddaughter. Mum has been an approved caregiver for 13 years supporting various whanau. CYF actually asked mum to have the granddaughter, and when they applied, the social worker indicated that they would be approved. They also went to the 8 year old’s school and interviewed him. Two social workers who interviewed mum and dad before the formal approval were very affirming and said that “this is the perfect home” for the 2 year old, and that the 8 year old is “a happy healthy boy – no problem with him.” However, during the interview, mum and dad admitted that if methods of correction such as time-out, withdrawal of privileges, and other consequences for defiant and unacceptable behaviour didn’t work, she might use a smack on the hand with a half-size wooden spoon. The two social workers – both who had just recently graduated – then said that the grandparents would not be able to have the granddaughter. A letter confirming this decision was sent, saying that the reason for not letting the granddaughter stay with her grandparents was because of “the disciplining methods and unwillingness to change these”.

Nana applied to have custody of her two grandnephews A(5) and B(3). She had been a caregiver with CYF previously, caring for nine children over a number of years. Her two great-nephews had been in foster care all their life and had been moved throughout various whanau unsuccessfully. CYF acknowledged that they had both medical and behavioural difficulties but offered support to Nana. They closely monitored Nana’s caregiving for a number of weeks before they formally assigned custody to Nana. Their behaviour was a challenge for Nana including incidences of climbing on the roof of the house, sticking fingers in to wall sockets, inappropriate toilet behaviour, and generally not obeying specific instructions. Nana regularly rang CYF for assistance but was either unable to contact the social worker assigned to her case, or was fobbed off – once being told to just ‘keep a log’ of the misbehaviour. CYF even suggested that the behaviour only started at Nana’s – but official records show that there were already concerns before placement, and an assessment by CYF of Nana after the incident detailed below says “home environment appears very child friendly and cosy… the boys seemed very settled, happy and bright.” CYF documents also show that they admit that their services and lack of co-ordination between offices was ‘not always consistent’. All of this resulted in stress and health concerns for Nana. On one occasion, A grabbed a butcher knife and hit B on the head, drawing blood. Nana growled A and gave him a smack on the hand with a wooden spoon. A trainee psychologist who was working with A contacted CYF regarding the incident. The boys were removed without any written notification or specific reason being given to Nana. Nana and the boys have not seen each other since – and Nana has still not been given a reason as to their removal.
(This information has been corroborated with documents obtained under the Official Information Act.)

Mum was engaged to be re-married, and had custody of her 8 year old (G). She also has two adult children. G has been diagnosed with ADHD and could, at times, be extremely challenging and defiant. Mum has regularly sought the help of medical professionals.  Everyone that mum went to for help – including CYF – basically turned their backs on her.  On one occasion, neighbours called the police when G was sent outside because of her defiant behavior and started screaming when her step-dad told her to apologise to her mum.  On another occasion G told her step-mum that mum had smacked her on the bottom – which she had, when G was being defiant and swore at her. The step-mum complained to the police. In both cases, the police told G off for not listening to her mum. During a visit from the police G even started to get mouthy to the policeman who told her to behave herself. G’s stepmother had told G that “if your mother ever smacks you, you are to tell me”.  The step-mum and dad applied for custody, and because of the complaints about “alleged assaults”, the Family Court judge refused all access between mum and G (and her other siblings and grandparents) while CYF investigated. This absolutely destroyed G’s mother to the point where she couldn’t go to work for a couple of days due to being so distraught. The CYF investigation took three months to complete – despite the Family Court judge requesting an urgent assessment! This also meant that G had to be supervised while being a flower girl at her mother’s wedding! G was not allowed to have contact with any family members. Affidavits show that the step-mum and dad had no good reason or evidence that mum used any violence – and even admitted that G ‘does sometimes exaggerate things’. Because of G constantly threatening mum with reporting her to the police, G is now living with her dad and step-mum and visiting her mum every 2nd weekend. The step-mum has apologized for her actions, and has acknowledged the difficulties with controlling G’s behaviour.

Mum has two children aged 10 and 8. The oldest child (P) had been very difficult and mum sought help from her school, social workers, and mental health organisations who told mum that P was ‘displaying’ ADHD but was ‘just naughty’. Mum and her partner did a parenting programme, and even have the certificate! They had been having trouble with P lighting fires which was particularly dangerous given that they live rurally right by a forest area. Mum had even got the local fireman to explain to P the problem with fires. On this particular occasion, P lit a fire right by the garage shed which has flammable materials (and during a particularly dry period of summer). When Mum confronted him with the seriousness of what he had done and what could have happened, he told her “F** you”. Mum gave him two smacks on his clothed bottom with a women’s cloth belt. Every other deterrent she had tried to stop him lighting stuff didn’t seem to work. Four days later, she admitted to a social worker what she had done and said “I need help. Your advice isn’t working”.  The social worker said that she would be reporting mum. Next day, CYF removed both boys to the birth father. The police investigated and after two weeks, informed mum that no charges would be laid, that the law was dumb, and that she was officially warned (although she received no written documentation relating to this). After seven weeks of supervised access to the children (and despite the police investigation being concluded five weeks earlier), mum tried to contact the social worker at CYF a number of times to enquire when she would be able to have the kids back. She managed to get hold of another social worker who checked the file and ‘thought’ it might be ok. The boys returned home. 18 months later, they have still heard nothing from CYF. They even submitted an Official Information Act request but got no response. Mum says that there is simply no support for parents who struggle with difficult children, but authorities are quick to take action when a parent puts a foot wrong.

Timaru Herald July 2011
A judge dismissed a charge against a Timaru father accused of hitting his seven-year-old with a belt. The charge arose after the boy told staff at his school that two bruises on his legs were caused by his father hitting him. The boy told police the same thing in a recorded interview in October last year, but told the Timaru District Court at a defended hearing on Wednesday he had lied because his teacher told him to say his father had hit him. When questioned by the police prosecutor, the boy said part of what he said was not true. He said the bruises were caused by his brother, who had thrown a clay cat and a toy dinosaur at him, and when he had jumped onto his brother’s bed. He said he told a teacher aide because she asked him for news from home, and said he told her the bruises were caused by his brother. Yesterday, when asked if the boy had said his brother caused the bruises, the teacher aide said no. Following his conversation with the teacher aide, his teacher spoke to him and he said he told her his brother had caused the bruises. The teacher said his brother could not have done it, and it must have been his father, he said. “I had to say daddy hit me or she would just put my name on the board or she would bench me.” The boy also said he was scared his brother would go to jail.

Mum and dad ‘s 11 year old daughter was getting bullied at school. Her parents weren’t aware of the extent of the bullying or impact it was having on her.  As a result of the bullying, she was being difficult at home, and mum and dad were having to be very strict and put clear boundaries on her, which she didn’t like. She got involved with a group of girls at school who were experimenting with ‘cutting’. One day she took a kitchen knife to school to use with her friends, and a teacher found it in her bag. She panicked, thinking that she would be in a lot of trouble at school for having the knife with her, so she told her school counsellor that dad had been smacking, punching and strangling her. (She had previously told her parents that they weren’t allowed to smack her or her siblings anymore as it was against the law). The school immediately referred this to the Police who in turn referred it to CYF. The same day, mum and dad’s four children were removed from the family home – without a court order.
The family insisted CYF interview their other children, family members, friends, previous teachers, and their family doctor to get an idea of what their family was like. CYF were not interested in doing this but agreed to interview the older siblings after constant pressure from the family. No disclosure of abuse of any kind was made by either sibling. The mother was interviewed and also stated that husband had never abused their children at any time. A CYF worker then tried to tell the mother that she was a victim of domestic abuse from her husband and that she wasn’t safe to go home to him. They also told the mother and father that if they hadn’t taken their daughter out of the family home immediately she would have ended up on the front page of the NZ Herald within a week as a story of ‘another’ child who had been beaten to death by their father. Throughout this entire time the father had to leave the family home and was not allowed any contact with any of his children.
Despite no corroboration or evidence of what the daughter was saying, CYF chose to rely only on the testimony of the 11 year old despite the fact that the parents have had no previous involvement with CYF or the police of any kind, and have had no issues from any school or any other social service agency. In fact, the father has a highly responsible community based job.
While staying at her aunty’s, the 11 year admitted she had made up the stories because of the bullying. CYF were advised of this but stated that the family had forced her to recant and compared the family to the Kahui family. Mum and Dad’s lawyer pushed to get the 11 yr old referred to the child mental health unit at Starship Hospital to be assessed by an independent child psychologist. After one session of interviewing and observing, the child told the psychologist that she had lied. The psychologist became visibly upset in front of the parents and said that they had been treated appallingly. On two occasions the psychologist spoke with CYF and told them that he didn’t believe CYF had any reason to be involved with the family as the 11 yr old had made up the abuse allegations. After nine weeks the police finally completed their investigation and said that no charges would be laid and that there would be no further action from them.
14 weeks after the hell started, the family were reunited. Despite no evidence of abuse, the family – including all the children – are now flagged officially with the police and CYF as “family violence”. The father has a flag against his name “Assaults Child”. This will affect the future career prospects of dad within his current employment and mum who is currently studying for a degree.

Sunday Star Times 3 June 2012
Mum has been trying to get help from CYF, CAMHS, and a psychologist, but they all said that not much could be done about her eight year old son’s oppositional behaviour and conduct problems. After a particularly extreme situation (not the first time), Mum asked her partner to discipline him in order to bring home the unacceptability of his actions. Mum’s partner smacked the boy with a folded belt on his clothed backside twice.
The boy’s grandmother (who CYF no longer want the boy to live with) reported it to the police and both mum and her partner were charged with assault. When spoken to by police, mum unfortunately admitted that over the past two to three years, she had smacked her son on a couple of occasions when she believed he needed it due to his behavior and when other punishments didn’t work – but the last time she could recall doing was at least six months ago. The district court judge acknowledged that mum had sought help and assistance many times – but that she had ‘stepped outside the bounds of what is considered to be appropriate parental discipline..’ Because mum was an early childhood teacher – a ‘very good one’ as acknowledged in court documents – the judge said she was ‘supposed to know better’. Both she and her partner were convicted of assault. The district court judge said that the fact that the mother was not angry but that the smack was a ‘considered decision’ was an aggravating factor.
On appeal to the High Court, mum’s partner was discharged without conviction on the basis of it being a ‘one-off incident in response to an extreme, highly unusual situation’ and that ‘a poor choice was made in response to a situation none of us would like to confront. It arose against a background where persistent efforts had been made to cope with the challenges presented.’ The judge also commented that there had been ‘sustained efforts over several years to cope with, and adjust, the boy’s behaviour.
However, because of mum’s admission that she had occasionally used smacking in the past, her conviction was upheld in the High Court, because ‘it cannot be said it was a one-off incident’ – despite her son presenting ‘unusual and difficult challenges’.
She appealed to the Court of Appeal – and won. They acknowledged that mum had ‘sought appropriate expert assistance … and had utilized a range of non-physical measures to address the child’s behaviour’ and that the actions were at ‘the lower end of the scale’. They also held that the prior incidents were overstated by the District Court judge.
Moral of the story? Be careful what you admit, even if John Key says a light smack is ok – and you think it is also.


Carer ‘stabbing’ case dismissed
NZ Herald Oct 28, 2010
A judge has thrown out the prosecution of a caregiver who poked a jagged broken pen into a boy’s leg “to teach him a lesson”, leaving him bruised but not badly injured. The case in the Waitakere District Court appears to set a precedent that could let other parents escape conviction for what are technically minor assaults against their children under the controversial 2007 “smacking” law. But Lorraine Cummins, the Henderson mother who poked the boy with the pen, still had to endure a night in a police cell and spend $3500 on legal fees before Judge Ian McHardy threw out the police case against her. Family First director Bob McCoskrie, who cited the case in full-page advertisements on Tuesday as one of seven new examples where the new law was penalising good parents, said other parents had been convicted for similar minor assaults. “So it could have gone either way,” he said. “You still run the lottery of whether the judge thinks you are ‘preventing’ or ‘correcting’ [a child’s behaviour].”

School bus driver charge dropped
The Southland Times 05/03/2010
School bus driver James McCorkindale had no idea what lay ahead when police were waiting for him last July at the end of his run. They had been called by children on his bus who claimed the 70-year-old had assaulted a 12-year-old boy while the bus was parked outside a Gore high school. After seven months of dealing with the stress of an assault charge hanging over him and his wife dying, Mr McCorkindale yesterday walked from the Gore District Court with the charge dismissed. The boy publicly apologised. “I’m sorry for what has happened. I don’t want him to go to jail.” His father said: “He’s not the best behaved child and has put Jim (Mr McCorkindale) into this position.” Explaining the details of the incident as though it were only a few days ago, Mr McCorkindale said he had approached the boy because he was pulling a girl’s hair. He had asked the boy twice to let her hair go but the boy’s only response was to swear at him. “I only did what I thought was necessary to get him to let her hair go.”

Pillow-attack case thrown out
NZ Herald Dec 4, 2009
A judge has thrown out an assault case against a man who threw a cushion at his nephew’s head following an argument with the boy’s mother. George Taylor was accused of assault last New Year’s Eve following an argument about whether the mother of the 6-year-old was being overprotective of her children. He threw a small decorative cushion at his nephew’s head, and although the mother did not see the incident, she called the police. During a depositions hearing in July, the mother told the Wellington District Court that although there were no injuries, it was “definitely not” just a pillow fight. At the hearing, the boy, who was speaking from behind a protective screen shielding him from the accused, told the court that the pillow strike had not really hurt and that he felt no ill-will towards his uncle. The boy said he had been hit on the top of the head, had not been injured and had not been sore. Yesterday in court, the judge said a trial would potentially damage the boy and dismissal of the case was in the overall interests of justice. The judge also blasted the police as “ridiculous” and “petty” for bringing action against Mr Taylor. Mr Taylor later said the whole situation had been ridiculous. “It’s just a waste of taxpayers’ money, my time and the police’s time.”

Charge puts family ‘through hell’
The Press 27/05/2010
A Christchurch father was “furious” at being imprisoned and losing custody of his child after being charged with assaulting his son. The father, whose name is suppressed, was given a discharge without conviction on Friday in a case that could have been a test of New Zealand’s anti-smacking laws. The father was held in custody for at least one night and separated from his four-year-old boy for two weeks under bail conditions that were later relaxed by the court. “He was furious originally because he was in prison for GBH [grievous bodily harm] and lost custody of his child and all because he was trying to calm a child,” defence counsel Jonathan Eaton said. Police alleged the man slapped his son on the head in North Hagley Park in January, but Eaton said the father was trying to calm a major tantrum. The child has since been diagnosed with a severe behavioural problem. Family First national director Bob McCroskie said the family was “taken through hell” by the court case.

Father charged for ‘shoulder shake’ of defiant daughter refusing to get out of bed
North Island  Sep 2007
Dad had been having major difficulties with his 15 year old daughter who was stealing money from home, sneaking out without permission, and coming home very late. One particular night she sneaked back into the house at 4am! When dad went to wake her at 6am a shouting match ensued. He pulled the blankets off her bed and shook her to hurry up and get out of bed. She alleges that dad punched her at least three times in the face and mouth, but the police statement says that ‘no medical attention was required’, and her sister in the top bunk did not witness the alleged punching. The daughter rang the police and the father was handcuffed and taken to the police cells for a couple of hours. He was convicted and discharged on condition of six counselling sessions – which he described as a ‘waste of time’.

Father charged for ‘shoulder shake’ of boy refusing to get out of bed
Auckland Nov 2007
“Around 3 years ago CYFS placed my son in my care after my ex wife could not handle him. My son has behavioural problems. One morning when he wouldn’t get out of bed and was getting stroppy towards me, I grabbed him on his shoulders and told him to pull his head in and behave. My ex wife found out and reported me to the police who in due course charged me under this new legislation with assault on child. CYF themselves found nothing wrong with my son or what happened and gave him back to me. I in the end was found guilty and received a 9 month suspended sentence. At the present moment I am a punching bag as my son knows I can’t do anything.”

Father charged for smacks for ‘correction’
North Island 2008
“John* and Mary* had been having difficulties with their teenage daughter – especially her secretive behaviour with her boyfriend. When John attempted to confiscate a ring, she started to scratch and John had to physically restrain her from attacking him. Despite giving her a warning she continued to be defiant so he gave her three smacks on the bottom with an open hand. His daughter eventually calmed down and apologised. But the next morning rang a teacher from school and complained that she had been held in a headlock, had been tied up to a post using a dog lead, and hit with an electric fence pole. John was charged with assault. He was advised to plead guilty to the smacks on the bottom as they were not used to ‘restrain’ the child but to ‘correct’ the child. All other charges and claims were dropped. John will be discharged without conviction if there are no further problems.”

Daughter rude to police. Father charged for smack
North Island Oct 2008
“My daughter went through a difficult patch and became highly rebellious, including wagging school. She was picked up by the Police whilst wagging and taken to the Police Station and was highly belligerent towards them. I took her home in the car and attempted to communicate with her as we drove. She refused to talk and responded to everything with a “yeah right”. To get her attention I smacked her once on the leg with an open hand and said “listen to me – this is serious.” The next day she again wagged school and went instead to CYF, encouraged by her friend, and told them I had ‘assaulted’ her. Despite my explanation to CYF, they asked the police to charge me. The officer who had charged me visited me at my home expressing concern about charging me but as I had admitted giving her a smack and the way the law was worded he had very little leeway. I was convicted of assault but discharged without further penalty. My daughter never thought it would go so far and has admitted to CYF that it was purely ‘I’ll get you’-based.”
‘I asked for help but instead got conviction’
NZ Herald Jul 28, 2009
A Wellington solo father says he went to Child, Youth and Family Services for help – and ended up with a conviction for smacking his daughter.
Father charged and convicted for requiring respect towards mother
North Island June 2008
On the way to school, mum and dad were angry at their daughter (12) for not doing her chores that morning. Dad, who was driving, reached across to his daughter in the front passenger seat and smacked her on the arm 2-3 times to demand that she listen to her mother. A driver in the vehicle behind claimed the father was punching the daughter and rang 111. Six police in three cars turned up at the daughter’s school. The police records show that the daughter didn’t feel any pain from the alleged ‘punching’. There was no bruising or marks of any kind. The police charged the father with assault. He was banned from living at home or seeing his daughter for two weeks. He pleaded guilty to assault simply to avoid the shame, stress, and costs of a defended hearing. His daughter (an A grade student at school) is simply pleased to have dad home. An Member of Parliament who reviewed the case described it as ‘disturbing.’

Grandfather charged and convicted for tipping child out of chair to get a ‘move-on’
South Auckland January 2008
A grandfather was charged and convicted of assaulting his grandson for tipping him out of a bean bag-type chair in order to ‘get him moving’. He had refused to turn the tv volume down and then refused to turn the tv off when asked. The grandchild rang 111. The grandmother and grandchild pleaded with the police not to take granddad away, yet he was held in prison cells for 2 nights, then bailed back home, despite police objections! His lawyer advised him to plead guilty to avoid cost and hassle.

Father charged yet case dismissed in court
Glen Innes NZ Herald 11 April 2008
A 30-year-old Glen Innes father was charged by police for allegedly hitting his five-year-old daughter with an open hand on the back of the head and swinging a pair of jeans at his six-year-old daughter. He had to spend a day in the police cells and police opposed bail! CYF also investigated the family yet found nothing to be concerned about. The complaint was made by a sister-in-law with whom there was believed to be animosity with because of her interference with the children. When the matter eventually came to court, the police offered no evidence and the case was dismissed. His lawyer said that the dad had pushed one of the girls to get her to hurry for school and threw the jeans at the other to get her attention. He said “When the whole issue was being discussed in Parliament and in public, they said that minor matters would not end up in court, it would only be the serious ones… the public were given assurances that the police would consider this law carefully, and in this case they have not.”

Father charged for correcting defiant child yet case dismissed
Nelson 15 November 2008
Dad was having major issues with his son and was working hard to try and get him ‘back on the tracks.” The son (11) had been stood down from school four times, had sworn at the principal, had to be physically restrained by two police during an incident at school, and had a special minder at school to keep him out of trouble.

Dad was charged for two separate incidents – the first where dad had smacked the son’s bottom when he continually defied his father’s instructions, and the second incident where the son threw a chair at his father and called him a “f**’ing idiot” and the father attempted to give him a ‘clip’. The police sergeant who attended the first incident was spat at by the son! No charges were laid because of the first incident, yet then were because of the second more minor incident. But the week before the trial was supposed to begin, all charges were dropped.
Dad who smacked loses son

Parents seek help – CYF remove children
South Island Nov 2008
John* and Sue* sought help from a social service because of the behaviour of their daughter (9). The two case workers were very affirming of them as a family and seemed both positive and helpful. On a subsequent night, the daughter had a major tantrum which involved throwing toys, banging the bunks against the wall and verbal abuse of mum. Dad warned her that if the behaviour continued she would receive a smack on the bottom (she had already been sent to her room at this point). She continued and dad gave her a smack on the bottom. She stopped the bad behaviour, and shortly afterwards came out remorseful and apologetic. At the next meeting with the social workers, Sue mentioned that they did smack their children but only when their behaviour warranted such discipline, and that John had smacked their daughter the previous day. That Friday, Sue received a call from CYF to inform them that an allegation of abuse had been made and that they needed to find alternate accommodation for their two children over the full weekend until Monday morning. They were interviewed by the police for 5 hours and later found out that the report to CYF said that ‘they admitted to hitting their children’. CYF have since apologised and admitted they would learn from this!
UPDATE: CYF says sorry to ‘traumatised’ family
NZ Herald July 29, 2009
CYFS admit they “could have done a better job” in the way it handled an allegation that a couple had smacked their daughter

Parents seek help – Referred to CYF Instead
Auckland July 2008
Jeff* and Mary* were having behavioural problems with their 10 year old son. At times, their son would scream at, kick and hit his mother. Their usual forms of discipline were time out, writing lines, and as a last resort, a smack. They realised other help was necessary and were referred to a child and youth mental health service. At the initial interview they mentioned that as a last resort they occasionally used a smack. As soon as the social worker heard the “smack” word, she short-circuited the conversation and insisted on interviewing the son alone while Jeff and Mary were asked to leave the room. They were subsequently reported to CYF and were petrified that their kids might be removed. They say that there is a warning here to all parents who use physical discipline as a means to kerb absolute defiant behaviour in their children – with the current law as it stands, if parents go to any health agency for help, they will be reported to CYF. The case has been subsequently closed by CYF.

Boy interrogated at sleepover. CYF called
North Island Sep 2008
Briar’s* 7 year old son John* stayed over at a friends. When he returned home the next day, he told Briar that his friend’s mum had interrogated him about whether Briar smacked him. John confessed to Briar that he had answered that sometimes she did. Ironically, the friend’s mum sometimes smacked her own children while John was staying! The friend’s mum told John to run away to her place the next time Briar gave him a smack. Within a few days, Briar was rung by CYF and was told that an anonymous complaint of child abuse had been made and that they were going to interview Briar’s other children at school. CYF told Briar that they had informed John that mum was never to smack him and if she did, he should ring CYF. A couple of months later, CYF rang Briar to say that the case was closed but she was not to smack. Since then John has become very angry, defiant and rebellious. Briar, a solo mum, is struggling to cope and is very stressed by the whole ordeal. However, because she has decided to continue smacking when necessary, Briar is afraid to seek outside help for fear of further interference.

Mother suspended for tapping child on hand
North Island October 2008
A 3-year old was at work with her mother at a community centre. Her mother was putting her to bed for an afternoon nap and the child started throwing a temper tantrum and scratching mum’s arm. She didn’t respond to mum’s voice so mum tapped her on the back of the hand. Not a hit or a slap. No red marks, raised skin, bruising – just a compliant child! For this, mum was suspended from work and charged with two counts of gross misconduct and child abuse. The employer threatened to refer the case to the police and go to CYF. However, her lawyer successfully got the employer to drop the case. Mum is back at work but she’s still feeling angry that something between her and her daughter should be treated so.

Daughter (10) dobs mum to CYF after grounding
Auckland November 2008
Two CYF workers arrived at Tania’s* home to say there was a complaint by her daughter (10) that mum had smacked her. Tania was distraught but said that they could talk to her daughter uninterrupted to determine if she was unsafe. The social workers simply wanted to remove her (but ironically they left Tania’s 8 year old at home.) Eventually they agreed that the daughter could stay the night with the godmother. The following day, the investigation found no basis for the complaint and that it had stemmed from Tania’s daughter and a friend being angry with mum for preventing her from attending the friend’s party. Mum and Dad are now feeling very powerless with their parenting. They say “every time someone gets told off in our home you feel like you will be told on, we are being held to ransom by this new law.” Their daughter has told them that if they discipline her “we’ll go through all this again.”

Solo Mum Investigated by Police When Child Falls Over
South Auckland
This South Auckland mother had no previous CYF or Police involvement. In October, she took her 5 year old shopping. As they were leaving the supermarket, the mother chased some money which the daughter had dropped. She then grabbed the child’s hand to lead the child to the car, but the child tripped and fell over. When mum got her daughter back to the car, she gave her a hug and kiss. An hour later, 2 police officers were at the door interviewing both her and her 5 year old after a complaint had been laid. The police said it was a waste of time, but the complaint would be held on file. The mother said “They could have phoned. Their visit surprised me. It made me feel like a criminal. It made me question my parenting skills. I may have been frazzled but in no way did I abuse my child.”

Police Investigate Grandmother for Giving Swearing Grandchild a Smack in Shop
Bay of Plenty
In October, a woman had been shopping with her granddaughter at one of the Warehouse stores in the Bay of Plenty to buy a bubble blowing Kit. They decided on one on a lower shelf when the granddaughter spotted one more expensive higher up and insisted that she wanted that one. Grandma said no and the granddaughter let her feelings be known in an offensive verbal manner using the F word amongst others. Grandma responded with a smack. As they left the store, she was surprised to find a policeman waiting to interview her. Aaccording to the store management, a complaint had been made by a member of the public. Fortunately they didn’t press charges, but the grandmother was shocked.

Toddler’s Bedtime Tantrum Brings Three Cops Knocking
West Auckland NZ Herald August 14, 2007
When Karyn Scherer’s 2-year-old threw a bedtime tantrum, the last thing the busy working mother expected was three police officers knocking on her door. But that’s what happened on Saturday night after a neighbour of the senior Herald journalist called 111. The police who responded said they had to check everything as quickly as possible, given the number of children who suffered harm. Police made no apologies yesterday for responding to an emergency call to the Titirangi property from a neighbour who told them: “I can hear a child screaming … and I’ve heard it before.”

School Dobs Mum to CYF for Hand Smack
Wellington Sunday Star Times 28 October 2007
A Wellington mother says her family has been left traumatised by new anti-smacking laws, after her son’s school reported her to Child, Youth and Family for smacking him on the hand. “I don’t want to feel like a child abuser, and I don’t want to be labelled as a child abuser because I smacked my son,” she said. “It’s brought a lot of trauma to our family unit and unnecessary stress.” The woman, who did not wish to be named because she says she fears losing her children, says another smacking several months later resulted in a visit from police and referral to a foster care agency – despite the police not charging her.

Boy Calls 111 to Report Parents
East Auckland Eastern Courier 3 August 2007
A boy called 111 after learning about the new child discipline regulations at school. The 11-year-old turned to police fearing he was assaulted by his parents, but it turned out that he was being disciplined. “He was engaging in offensive and obstructive behaviour and his parents intervened with reasonable force,” Howick-Otara family violence coordinator sergeant Brett Woodmass says. “The boy said he had learnt about the law at school and I believe he was misinformed,” he says.

Mother Investigated After 4 Year Old Smacked For Running Out on Road
West Auckland
Jackie’s 4 year old ran across the road outside a busy supermarket when she saw a friend on other side of road. The mum smacked her on the bottom once to show her how dangerous her actions were. A member of the public challenged the way she had disciplined her child, took her vehicle registration, and the mum was visited by police two days later. She felt like a criminal and embarrassed by it all. She said “please don’t take my daughter” to the police. They did a police check to see if it had happened before. The Police (who had kids as well) told the mum they felt it was a waste of time. The daughter said “what’s wrong mummy,” and was upset by it all.

Supermarket tantrum earns stressed mum police warning
South Auckland
Wanita’s 5-year old son (who is autistic) was having what his mum calls a “magic moment” in the supermarket. This included screaming, lying on the floor and waving his arms around. Mum had to leave the supermarket despite not completing her shopping, with the son crawling on the floor and screaming at her. Once outside, Wanita attempted to deal with the behaviour quickly, as taught to her by the specialists who work with her son. She told him to get himself under control and started counting to 5. She also had to hold his arm as he was attempting to run out into the parking lot. As all this was happening, a policeman approached her, asked if she was aware of the anti-smacking law, and informed her that he was giving her a warning. The mother said that she had not even smacked the child, and enquired whether he knew what it was like to have an autistic child. He said that he was simply doing his job. She replied that she was simply doing her job as a mother.

Eight year old’s Class Taught to Dob in Parents – Behaviour Deteriorates
Hawkes Bay
The police went to a local primary school and did a session on “Keeping Ourselves Safe.” During the session, the policeman told this particular class of 7 and 8 year olds that parents couldn’t smack them, and that if they did, they should immediately tell the teacher. This was not the only school in the area where this message was given.

Within the next few days, this solo mum’s 8 year old daughter who had been in this session and who had had a ‘clean’ record at school all year was stood down for kicking the teacher in the leg. She also kept telling her mother “you can’t make me do anything – you can’t smack me”, following the lesson. Her older child (10) also told the mother that “you can’t make me go to school.”

The mother went to the police to clarify what they had said and to tell them the difficulties she’d had since their visit to the school. The Sergeant was obliging and said he would sort it out by sending the officer involved to speak to the girls and reinstate her authority. An angry phone call from the officer followed to the mother, questioning whether she had a problem with the smacking law. Two days later 2 male officers arrived to supposedly reinstate the mother’s authority but instead they questioned her parenting skills and told her they had investigated her background with a variety of community organisations. They had her in tears and she found them intimidating and degrading. They also proceeded to tell the children their rights. Yet amazingly the police said to the mother the daughter deserved a smack after kicking the teacher. The mother in desperation at her treatment spoke to her local MP, & was then contacted by the District Commander of the Police who told her not to go complaining to the MP because he had better things to do.

The mother was traumatised by all this, and has laid a formal complaint with the Police but to no avail.

Passerby Reports Squealing Child
Tanya had two police officers arrive on her doorstep as she was hosting visitors on a Saturday night. The police informed her that a ‘passer by’ had heard a child being smacked and subsequently screaming. They could not tell the mum what day this occurred on, what time or who the person was. She explained to them that her 9 year old daughter squeals when she plays, particularly when outside on the trampoline with her brother. She likes to play hard with her 13 year old brother – and inevitably she sometimes gets hurts – and performs! The mum says the passer-by could have heard her children ‘playing’ – “do I have to stop them having fun??” “We don’t smack our kids (or if we have in the past, it has been minor) and this incident did not occur. I informed the officers accordingly. They insisted that they needed to see my daughter. I informed them that she was now with her father as we share custody. I gave them full contact details. They told me they would have to go around there to check she was OK.” “I have found the whole episode to be extremely distressing. I felt completely humiliated to literally be accused of child abuse and have now found it hard to sleep at night at it has upset me so much – how I look after and care for my children is being questioned. On hearsay I am now a guilty person. This new law is ending up with a lot of good innocent parents being wrongfully accused. This law needs to be changed.”

Grandmother Warned by Police After Grabbing Grandchild Running onto Road
South Auckland
This grandmother had to prevent her 2 year old grandson from running onto the road by grabbing his arm and pulling him back to the footpath. She was petrified that her grandson could be run over. A police officer witnessed her and said she was breaking the law by grabbing him. She was let off with a warning but was told that if it ever happened again, they would prosecute her. She had recently lost a friend’s child (6) to a train crash. (Takanini) She now puts him in the pram to avoid getting arrested. Her family is horrified by what’s happened and she’s now concerned about taking her grandchildren out in public. She feels she’s been publicly humiliated. Another grandmother came up to her and said she’d been interviewed by the police for giving her 4 year old grandson a smack on the bottom in Countdown for swearing at her. The woman was taken to the police station to be interviewed

They had no right to make dad look like a criminal – daughter (13)
North Island
“My name is Steven and I am 11, this is what happened – I was late home and my dad was angry with me because I was out on the street when it was dark, he smacked me a couple of times on my bum but it did not hurt, the next day I told my neighbours what had happened and they rung CYF. CYF came to my school and talked to me and also my brother and sister without my mum and dad knowing. When I got home after school we were told that we could not see our dad, my brother and sisters and I were hurt by this. I wish CYF never got involved they hurt my family. dad was allowed home again because we told them it wasn’t abuse. The police also said it wasn’t.”

“I am Steven’s older sister and I am 13 years old. I think what CYF did was wrong. they told my mum that my dad couldn’t see us for two weeks. they didn’t interview me even though steven told them he had an older sister. if they had’ve interviewed me i would have been outraged because my dad is hard working and watches us play sports and takes us to music lessons. our family was in tears even my dad. they had no right to make my dad look like a criminal.”

Teen to mum – “you can’t hit me but I can hit you”
South Auckland
Nickie is a mum who uses a smack perhaps once a year. But recently she was hit by her 16-yr old son when he didn’t want to obey her request. Nickie said to him “You can’t hit me”. His immediate response was “ah no& you can’t hit me”. She has four sons, and is very worried about the effect of this attitude on her other children. Her 3-year old has also started saying “you can’t hit me”. She feels like her only option is to ‘hand them over to government – we have no control any more’. Even thought she doesn’t smack, she still signed the petition opposing the anti-smacking law as she wants to retain that option in exceptional circumstances, and opposes being told how to parent her own children.

Kids fighting in backseat of car earns mum a police investigation
North Island
Rebecca* (name changed to protect identity) was driving her parents’ car with her two young boys in the backseat. They were fighting and causing havoc, and causing a dangerous distraction to Rebecca. She turned to the back seat, pointed at each of the boys to get their attention, and told them to stop fighting and to sit quietly. A passerby reported Rebecca to the police for allegedly smacking a child in the front seat! The police went to the grandparents’ house (the registered owner of the vehicle.) The grandparents were away, and after questioning a number of neighbours, eventually tracked down Rebecca. She wasn’t home, and they refused to discuss what they wanted with the husband. They did acknowledge to him how time-consuming the investigation was. Rebecca and her husband are understandably upset by the malicious and inaccurate claims, the involvement of the police, and the suspicion and embarrassment caused by the interviewing of various neighbours.

One smack for one-hour tantrum – 10 year old calls 111
South Auckland
Joy has a special needs 10 year old boy who has muscular dystrophy and ADHD. One afternoon, he refused to do what his mum asked and stared swearing at her, threw a knife at her, and threatened to harm himself. Joy sent him to his bedroom but every time he came back out, the tantrums continued. This went on for an hour. Finally Joy gave him one smack on the bottom, which immediately brought him under control. He then called 111 in his bedroom and within half an hour, the police were on Joy’s doorstep. The police realized that this was not child abuse and told the boy not to waste their time again. Joy wanted to make his son go down to the police station to apologise for his actions, but the officer in charge told Joy that that was not allowed and the boy had done the right thing! When Joy realized that her son had rung the police, she was petrified. She was also panicking that they could take away her son.