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A pilot’s conviction for smacking his 12-year-old son has been overturned, with a court ruling that causing pain during discipline does not “transform” a parent into a criminal.

Supreme Court Justice David Peek quashed the dad’s conviction for aggravated assault yesterday, highlighting the original trial as “misdirected” on “the issue of parental correction”.

In delivering his judgment, Justice Peek stated that the slaps the pilot delivered to his son’s thigh, were “not unreasonable” and used for the purpose of correcting the behaviour of his offspring.

“The suffering of some temporary pain and discomfort by the child will not transform a parent attempting to correct a child into a person committing a criminal offence,” he said. “Indeed, the very suffering of temporary emotion may be calculated to impress the child and correct the behaviour, just as much as the accompanying physical discomfort.

“Some level of pain is permissible, and in the present case there was little … the mere existence of red marks caused by the punishment does not prove unreasonable correction.

“It is very important that parental conduct which is not considered unreasonable in the Australian community should not be stigmatised as criminal offending in a criminal court.”

The pilot, 43, challenged his original conviction imposed by the Magistrates Court for an alleged assault upon his son in the northeastern suburbs in March 2014.

In his judgment, Justice Peek said the pilot shared custody of his son, 12, with his estranged first wife.  He went onto describe the mother’s approach to parenting as “very laissez-faire”.

Further describing the father in the case, Justice Peek said the pilot was of “of excellent character and work ethic” with a “distinguished” military career.  

Delving into the father’s parenting style, the Judge emphasised his use of “firm boundaries” surrounding bedtimes, TV and computer use, meals and chores.  

“The pilot gave evidence that he tried to instil self-discipline in his son and values similar to those of the Air Force including respect, dignity and integrity,” he said. “(The boy) would become indignant and stubborn … he did not like being corrected … he was quite adamant that he was in the right and his father was in the wrong.”

Describing the incident in question itself, Justice Peek said that prior to the smacking incident, the father had punished his son by giving him “time out” and was “genuinely frustrated” by its ineffectiveness.

When his son “threw a tantrum” over lunch about his food and showed disrespect to his father and stepmother, the pilot then smacked the boy three times.  

His struck the boy once on his bare thigh and twice on his shorts, saying, ““if you’re going to act like a four-year-old, I’ll treat you like a four-year-old”.The boy said in evidence that the pain in his leg was not serious and hurt a little bit for a day, and the redness lasted two days … his thigh did not bruise,” he said.

The pilot’s former wife reported the incident to police, and after a trial he was convicted of assault and discharged without further penalty.

Justice Peek said the magistrate’s original decision must be overturned and the charge dismissed.

He said the unreasonable application of force for “malice or revenge” was a criminal act, but genuinely disciplining a child of appropriate age and size for the punishment was not.

“If one can ever safely say that something is as old as mankind, that something might be parental correction of children,” he said. “There has long been a fundamental question as to the extent to which the law should intrude into such areas. While it may be that some children … may be too old for physical parental correction, such an argument does not extend to a 12-year-old boy.”

Justice Peek said that life-affecting consequences for the pilot linked to an aggravated assault conviction were significant in nature and in this case, unwarranted.

“Many persons might be unable to comprehend how a parent could even be charged in such a situation,” he said. “(They) would believe that a finding of aggravated assault would have to be based on conduct very much more serious than that.”

Image source: DepositPhotos

  • Sounds like the mother is the one who isn’t doing such a great job parenting.

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  • I don’t believe in smacking though I agree with the judge.

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  • I don’t believe in smacking, but I can understand turning to it as a last resort. This seems a fair and reasonable decision given the facts.

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  • The ex wife was probably just trying to stir the pot by reporting it.

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  • Is every \’hi-5\’ an aggravated assault too? There is a small chance that hitting a child as part of this cultural greeting would land the same consequences one day! It seems it was the context (hitting to discipline rather than hitting to greet) that shocks people… fine to hit a child with this \’moderate force\’ when yo\\\’re greeting them, congratulating them etc. but not at fine to apply \’moderate force\’ at other times.

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  • Wise words from the judge !

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  • tHERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SMACK AND INHUMANE PEOPLE WHO BEAT THEIR CHILDREN FOR NO CAUSE WHICH IS INTOLERABLE. tHINK THIS MTTER SHOULD BE MORE CLEARLY DEFINED. mY SONS WHO ARE 40 AND 30’S BOTH TALK ABOUT ME GIVING THEM A SMACK (THEY COULD BE TERRORISTS HA !) THEY LAUGH ABOUT IT AND SAID THEY DESERVED IT. WE LAUGH AND TALK ABOUT IT OPENLY AND THEY ARE BOTH GREAT GUYS (SOMETIMES hA… a CHILD DOES NOT KNOW DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHATIS DANGEROUS AND WHAT NOT IS ONE OF MY OPINIONS ON THIS TOPIC, SAYING NO AND EXPLAINING AS LOTS OF PRENTS KNOW ONLY MAKES CHILD DO IT AGAIN! TETING A SLAP NOW AND AGAIN IS A FIRMER DETERANT TO THE SPOKEN WORD

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  • I can only agree with the judge. A disciplinary smack is not the same as aggravated assault. I believe that if a few more children had received smacks when little, they would not grow to be the juvenile delinquents that society is now plagued with.

    Exasperated grandmother.

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  • However, in New Zealand, a single smack delivered as parental correction to a child turns the parent administering the smack into a criminal……. but verbal abuse or constant parental criticism and verbal denigration of the child does not……

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  • I was raised with what is called child abuse now using a walking cane, belt or wooden kitchen utensils & if I was lucky just Dad’s hand, it was abuse leaving bruises for weeks which is not to be confused with discipline by smacking a child. Smacking should only ever leave a red mark for short period of time & not a lasting mark, sometimes it is all that a child will take notice of because negotiating does not work with a young child & a teenager will just laugh at you. As a sole parent I had to be on top of the behaviour of my 2 sons & that included smacking when necessary, especially effective when in public & they misbehaved. A slap on the leg or bottom never hurts much more than a quick sting which is over & done with in a matter of minutes. It is more the shock value that works to change their behaviour & drop the defiance. One of my kids tried the “I have rights & I will report you to the cops” I replied “please do” & handed him the phone & even offered to dial their number.
    Good on this Dad for his approach to his son’s behaviour & standing up for his rights as a parent & clearing his name. It is already hard enough when you have an opposing estranged partner on the other side of the child making false accusations of abuse so thankfully a judge had the sense to overturn the charge,

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  • for these ignorant idiot do-gooders out there that preach you can’t do this, you can’t do that. You have no idea what i would like to see done with you idiots. In saying this i also applaud the Judge in question for his common sense, a smack is just that & it is fine to use that when all else fails. & just to fill all of you do-gooders in as to part of my past so i do know what i am speaking about. My father was a drunk & a sadistic bastard (no other way to describe him) have i hit my own kids like that? Answer is NO. Have i smacked my kids on occasion? Answer Yes. Have i abused them like my father did? Answer. NO……. Does everyone who was abused as a kid turn into an abuser? Answer is NO. This is a personal choice & everyone has it. Every parent has the right to chastise & punish their child as they see fit so long as there is no abuse in it. If a parent has used everything at their disposal & it has not worked then yes a slap on the bum, thigh or hand is fine & if anyone said anything to me in response to it i would turn round & tell them to bugger off it is of no concern to them & none of their damn business.

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  • I agree with the judge, I was smacked as a child when I wouldn’t do the right thing or misbehaved badly & I turned out well. I know lots of teenagers & young adults that were never given a smack that believe they can do whatever they like & a few have ended up in court for doing the wrong thing as they wouldn’t listen to their parents growing up. A few I know were told by their teachers that their parents couldn’t smack them & that if they did they could have them charged. Most of these young adults speak disrespectfully to their elders, verbally abuse people all because they still think they can do what they want without any consequences but find out the hard way that they can no longer get their own way. A smack on the bottom or hand is sometimes the only thing that will make a child listen.

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  • It certainly does not. This issue raises its head every now and then. Smacking a child does not mean you will turn into a horrible, nasty, abusive person or criminal. Let’s not go down that path. In the recent court case, someone finally had common sense and saw it for what it was.

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  • every person in life has principles to live by smacking a child has been the way most people teach their children right from wrong I have been smacked when I did something wrong but I deserved it because I had been in the wrong and you just know as a child right from wrong they do know the difference and push buttons to have their parents at each other to see who they can manipulate to get what they want have seen it many times and will still see it many more before I pass on

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  • Im 35 I got smacked when I was young, it does not harm u speaking,yelling does nothing, u look now how many kids walk over there parents, do what they want, graffiti, wrong crowd, what happened to rules and discipline, kids are more wild now a days, good on the guy totally support and back him up. As long as u don’t abuse the child to a point of suffering when smacking, no parent likes going to shops and kids are screaming but ur not allowed to smack. worked in the old days let it be up to the parents how they discipline

    Reply

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