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Ruby Harrold-Claesson

The Smacking Ban: A dangerous law

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In the Dominion Post article (14/3) Police prepare rules to act on smacks the New Zealand public is informed that police chiefs are preparing to send out guidelines for dealing with complaints about smacking as the bill outlawing the use of physical punishment as the final vote draws nearer. The Gisborne Herald article (17/3) New bill ‘unlikely’ to drastically lift police workload is based on a quotation from Police Minister Annette King. The Police Minister’s views are quite irrelevant because the police, prosecutors and the criminal justice system are obliged to enforce the letter of the law. Thinking New Zealanders have known all along that the proposed law would lead to policing and criminalising responsible parents.

Being a lawyer in Sweden under the regime of the anti-smacking law, I have known that all along, and I am still trying to warn New Zealand before it is too late: The anti smacking bill will turn parents into criminals. If the Bill becomes law it will mean the abolition of parental authority. That is exactly what the Editor of the Swedish newspaper The Day, (Dagen) wrote in his editorial An unnecessary law on November 11, 1978.

In Sweden the supporters of the Bill – the law was passed by 344 of 350 votes to protect children from abuse – claimed that no parent would be prosecuted under the anti-smacking law because it was promulgated in the Parents and guardianship Code. However, When I state in lectures, debates or public talks, etc., that the anti-smacking law is invoked to support the criminal charges against the parents and that the law has made parents afraid of their children, that the children intimidate their parents by threatening to report them to the police and the social services, etc., my opponents say that I am scaremongering or that I don’t know what I am talking about. However, my statement is confirmed in the article European Report: Mummy and Daddy spare rod — or go to court, published in 2000. Well, there you have it. (See )

In a government-funded speech in February 2006, Joan Durrant, claimed that Sweden ‘s smacking ban has reduced child abuse to virtually zero. (See ) . The ideological advocates, led by Sue Bradford, claim that a smacking ban will reduce child abuse in New Zealand . However, Dr. Chris Beckett’s paper (2005), that bears the title: ‘The Swedish Myth: The Corporal Punishment Ban and Child Death Statistics’, shows that it did not reduce child abuse nor child homicides. It is just a myth.

Dr. Bob Larzelere has shown that in Sweden, trends indicate sharply increasing rates of physical child abuse, at least in criminal records of assaults by relatives against children under the age of seven (7). This frequency increased from 99 in 1981 to 583 in 1994, a 489% increase. On February 28, 2007, Family First published a press release informing of a 14% Increase in Child Abuse despite Swedish Smacking Ban. These are the latest figures from Sweden revealing that more children were abused in Sweden in 2006 compared with the 2005 figures, according to The Swedish Daily. (See ).

Since 1978 – the year before the anti-smacking Bill gained force of law – until today, thousands of parents have been reported, accused, arrested by the police, detained, tried in courts of law and sentenced to fines or prison as a result of the said law. Christian Diesen, a professor in Sweden was quoted in an article in the NZ Herald saying: Approximately 7000 cases [of beating children] are reported each year, but only 10 per cent lead to prosecution… It would seem that Diesen would like to see more parents prosecuted. Anyway, ten per cent gives the grand total of 700 cases per annum multiplied by 27 years, makes 18 900 prosecutions for child abuse from 1979 until 2006. The number of prosecutions may seem small, but the 7 000 reports multiplied by 27 years brings the number of families that have been affected to 189 000. In unsubstantiated cases, suspected physical abuse of children is transformed into factual administrative and mental abuse of the children and their parents.

Swedish case law bears ample evidence of the devastating effects the anti-smacking law has had on children and their parents and the Swedish society as a whole. The case with the family of seven children in the south of Sweden shows that even if the parent has been acquitted in the criminal case, the children are taken into care and placed in foster care. It therefore seems quite obvious that the Select Committee – of which Sue Bradford was a member and thus could exert undue influence – did not examine the Swedish case law that I presented at the oral hearing, otherwise Parliament would have voted against the Bill at the second reading.

For those who aren’t yet acquainted with Swedish case law on smacking, here are two interesting cases: 1 – On June 17, 2000 a father was finally acquitted in the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden for physically forcing his 11-yr old son to take a shower before returning home to his mother in the Autumn of 1997. The District court found that the father had assaulted his son when he led him bodily to the shower.

2 – On May 5, 2005, the Court of Appeal for Western Sweden found a step-father guilty of abuse for slapping his 15-yr old step-daughter who had spat in his face. The step-father had been acquitted in Varberg District court in October 2004.

Prosecuting parents for physically forcing or punishing their children when words and admonitions prove to be insufficient is in no way in the best interest of children – neither in Sweden nor in New Zealand . It is, and must remain, the parents’ duty and right to educate and socialise their children within the context of their family.

Who has the right to decide what is right? The politicians or the parents who know and love their children and want what is best for them? Sweden ‘s politicians decided what was right and best for the children of Sweden , and the parents were forced to abdicate or be dragged through the criminal and administrative court systems. Today both parents and children suffer at the hands of the social bureaucracy with the right to separate children from their abusive parents and put them in foster homes. However, separating children from their parents constitutes the greatest abuse – both physical and emotional – that can be inflicted on children and their families.

The right to respect for private and family life is a basic Human Right. Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Likewise, Article 16 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees:

1. No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation.

2. The child has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Sue Bradford’s Bill to criminalise smacking is pure and simple state intervention and interference in the family structure, typical for regimes that aim to break down the family, undermine parental authority and make children the property of the state – to be used and abused at will by the bureaucrats in what they claim to be the child’s best interest.

I have been criticised for saying that Swedish children are badly behaved. Well, I am not the only one who finds that Swedish children are badly behaved. See for eg Roger Lord’s article The children are embarrassing Sweden (see ), and Linda Skugge’s article We are bringing up a generation of monsters (see ). Also, contact the Swedish Foreign Office in Stockholm and ask them to supply you with the correspondence between the former Head of the Legal Department, Hans Corell, and the Swedish consuls in continental Europe concerning Swedish youths’ behaviour during the sport holidays in the Alps . 1991-01-22 is the date on one of Hans Corell’s letters.

To normal thinking people, a well-behaved child is a joy to its parents, friends and the community at large; a badly behaved child is an abomination. The Daily Mail, March 13, 2007, has published the article, The terror aged ten, about the 10-yr old boy who drinks, smokes pot, steals and terrorises his neighbourhood. (See )

Some of those who have commented on the article think that the boy’s parents should be made answerable for his behaviour.

Sue Bradford has extensive, personal experience of being arrested by the police, detained, tried in courts of law and sentenced to prison. It seems that she wants decent, loving, caring parents to share her experiences.

I am convinced that New Zealand has enough intelligent, level-headed politicians so they will not want their fellow citizens to have to make the same mistakes that Sweden has made. Bradford ‘s Bill is not being progressive; it is being destructive and repressive. The French reporter, Jean-Francis Held, wrote the article Smacking: Those Swedes must be crazy! (see )

I hope we will not have to read the article: Smacking: Those Kiwis must be crazy!

By the way, if the New Zealand MP’s want to follow Sweden ‘s example, then I can inform you that we had a change of government in October 2006.


The Day, Editorial, November 11, 1978

Translated by Ruby Harrold-Claesson, attorney-at-law.

The Minister of Justice, Sven Romanus, will be laying a completely unnecessary not to say dangerous law on the tables of our Parliament. It is about the prohibition of all types of physical corrections of children. From now on – if parliament doesn’t come to its senses – all smacking will be forbidden by law. In doing so a significant part of the Swedish population will be turned into criminals.

We live in a society with mentally and physically ill-treated children. That doesn’t depend on the fact that some parents take a firm hold of their children’s arms or give them a smack in their behinds. What is most dangerous in our society is that adults have let down their children. Parents who can’t cope

The worst thing that can happen is that children are left to take care of themselves (abandoned). We agree with the writer on The Daily News page two, Gunilla Hellström, who wrote the other day: The problem today is not so much that parents use the wrong educational methods but rather that they just can’t cope with, don’t have the time for, don’t feel competent to bring up their children. One should not come up with a law that reinforces that tendency, a law that expresses distrust towards parents and their methods of bringing up their children. This law is not the expression of a mutual conviction but instead leads to unbelievable hypocrisy, to cover-ups instead for an open debate about the difficulties and problems in child rearing. Besides, a law that can increase child abuse since parents are forbidden to react in controlled and for the children harmless ways. LOOSE REACTION

What is most gruesome is that our society does not react at all against the general disintegration of morals, which induces adults to neglect their children for the sake of their own self realisation. On the contrary one wants to criminalise all forms of physical corrections of children.

Our society already has the possibility to intervene against real child abuse. Guardianship can be removed from unsuitable parents who neglect and ill-treat their children. There is therefore no reason to go a step farther. PUBLIC MORALS

Society must start to recognise its responsibility for public moral. If there isn’t a complete turn around families will be broken up more and more and there will be the disappearance of the prerequisites for giving children a growing-up environment where they are cared for and given a good upbringing.

At the very foundation more strict sexual morals need to be inculcated in our schools. Sex education is of course not the foremost source of norms for our youngsters. They gather their ideals from their friends, from weekly magazines and literature for children and young people. But the fact that our schools accept so much of the dissolution of morals is a prompting factor even though we have got better tutoring than what was feared. We have to bring about a change. ABORTIONS STRENGTHEN CHILD HOSTILITY

Unwanted pregnancies follow in the wake of looseness. In a child-friendly society one should naturally make room for everyone – also the unwanted children. But Sweden and just about the entire western world has accepted free abortion as a solution. And so, every year, ca 30 000 new people are prevented from coming to life while at the same time nativity is falling catastrophically.

We do not want to lay stones on the burden of women who have abortions. But no one ought to disregard the fact that free abortion is a strong contributing factor to a new view of children as an unwelcome burden on adults. They are welcome just as long as they fit into our plans. And it is the society that sanctions this view.

It is obvious that this view has also gravely influenced married women – abortion has become the way out not only for an unfortunate pregnancy outside of marriage with its threatening social stigma but also for the economical and social problems that can befall a family. The society should support and help – but in a different way. Now hostility towards children is gaining momentum all the time.


And when people’s responsibility for the consequences of sexual cohabitation is dissolved, the bands between them are thinned. Divorces are becoming more and more common. Also in these situations the children come in a jam and are the innocent victims.

Let us make a front against real child abuse! The most unfortunate thing with the new proposed law against all smacking would be if it should contribute to silencing our society’s conscience.

The politicians in parliament would be able to believe that they have strengthened the protection of children’s rights. But instead they are weakened. A law like this one does not stop real child abuse, but it increases insecurity among a lot of good parents.

Draw back the government bill!