Anti-smacking law no safeguard

Anti-smacking law no safeguard

By Lavinia Ngatoko, Challenge Weekly, New Zealand


Lavinia Ngatoko is a reporter for Challenge Weekly, New Zealand

This article was previously published in Challenge Weekly, Internet Issue, July 23, 2006.

It is published here with the kind consent of the author.



A Swedish family lawyer who is in New Zealand to warn about the consequences of introducing no-smacking legislation says she is not here to "scaremonger".

Ruby Harrold-Claesson, said that as a lawyer who defends parents prosecuted under the Swedish no-smacking legislation she had seen too many children and families suffer.

Mrs Harrold-Claesson, who will testify before the justice and electoral select committee on July 27, said she would not have come to this country if she did not truly care about what would happen to children and families here if the anti-smacking bill was passed.

"If I can give testimonies about what I’ve experienced as a legal practitioner and if this can help the people of New Zealand not to be subjected to the kind of abuse that Swedish families and children are being subjected to, then I think I will have done something worthwhile," she said.

"Personally I would be happy if someone came and helped Sweden to get out of the situation they’ve put themselves in."

In response to children’s agencies such as Barnados, Plunket and UNICEF, which have alleged that she uses inaccurate and misleading statements to support her views and suggest a different view of the Swedish situation, Mrs Harrold-Claesson said they were the ones who were spreading disinformation.

The lawyer has brought details of 40 cases with her and said she had many others she hadn’t had the time to list. What she had was just "the tip of the iceberg" and it was difficult to find many other cases because of the way the courts in her country reported on them.

Mrs Harrold-Claesson said that when she appears in front of the select committee she would be arguing that the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act, which would remove the defence of reasonable force, would open the path to a blanket prohibition on smacking.

"Then you’d all be on the same road to what’s happening in Sweden where children aren’t to be restrained or corrected in any way."

Mrs Harrold-Claesson denied claims that anti-smacking legislation would help to prevent violence against children because no matter what laws a country had there was always going to be child abuse.

"You’re always going to have parents who are under the influence of such things as drugs, alcohol and even mental derangement and who might harm or even kill a child," she said.

"Sweden has had the blanket prohibition against smacking since 1979 but there is still violence against children.

"The real violence against children is the administrative violence they and their parents are exposed to when the authorities intervene in families."

Mrs Harrold-Claesson said her message to politicians who would be voting on the bill would be just to use their common sense and not let those who are advocating changes in the law influence them.

"They should find out the facts and I have the facts here. They should examine them carefully. How would they react or how would they feel if this happened in their own families."



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