Story: Childhood

Child discipline and the law

Child discipline and the law

Between 1893 and 2007 New Zealand law allowed parents to use physical force to correct their children if the force used was reasonable. What constituted reasonable force was not specified – if parents appeared in court on charges relating to disciplining their children, reasonable force was interpreted on a case-by-case basis. From 2007 force could not be used for the purposes of correction.

The top document shows the amended section 59 of the Crimes Act 1961. The lower document shows the original section 59. The amendment outlines the circumstances in which the use of reasonable force is justified. It allows police to waive prosecution when the force used was inconsequential and prosecution is not in the public interest.

Using this item

Te Ara - The Encyclopedia of New Zealand
Reference: Crimes (Substituted Section 59) Amendment Act 2007 (top); Crimes Act 1961, section 59 (bottom).

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How to cite this page:

Kerryn Pollock, 'Childhood - Child discipline and justice', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 22 May 2022)

Story by Kerryn Pollock, published 5 May 2011, reviewed & revised 12 Dec 2018