Father cleared on assault charges after smacking his child

A leading medical professional has said Australia should join other counties in banning the smacking of children. PHOTO: Nat Bromhead / Daily Mercury
A leading medical professional has said Australia should join other counties in banning the smacking of children. PHOTO: Nat Bromhead / Daily Mercury Nat Bromhead

A SOUTH Australian man has been cleared of assault charges after a magistrate convicted him for smacking his 12 year-old son three times on the thigh. 

Justice David Peek of the South Australian Supreme Court handed down a written judgment on the matter yesterday, in which he set out exactly when it's legal and illegal to smack your kid. 

The incident which led to the charges arose in a Hungry Jacks restaurant after the boy in question acted in a way which his father said was "disrespectful."

The boy was refusing to speak to his dad because he wouldn't buy him a dessert from a bakery earlier in the day.

The boy's name has been suppressed and the judgement refers to him only as "M" and the father has not been identified in order to protect the child.

According to the court's ruling just before he smacked his kid the dad said: "That's it. Enough's enough of this behaviour. If you're going to act like a four year old, I'll treat you like a four year old."

He then reached down with his left hand, picked up M's left leg and smacked him on the thigh.

That afternoon the boy was returned to the custody of his mother and the next day, on March 10, 2014, the boy went to a police station and complained about the incident and the father was subsequently charged with aggravated assault.

In 2015 the father was convicted with the magistrate finding: "M was 12 years old, weighed approximately 60kgs and was nearly a teenager."

"He was very upset by (the father's) actions, and rightly so. Not only did he feel physical pain, but, perhaps worse, he felt humiliated and demeaned by his father's actions.

"He was clearly distressed, both at the time and shortly afterwards, at his mother's house."

Yesterday that verdict was overturned and not only did Justice Peek find the father not guilty, he laid down the law relating to smacking kids.

According to the judgment, an English case in 1869 set the precedent that it's not okay for a father to smack a kid younger than two.

This precedent was expanded upon by the Victorian Courts, in 1955, where it was held that it is against the law to smack a kid too hard, or with a closed fist and hitting on the head or the face, or with an "instrument" can all constitute assault.

While verdicts in different states aren't legally binding the Justice Peek also set out the law in Queensland. 

In Queensland it legal for parents and in fact school teachers to smack children.

And as late as late as 1977 magistrates were still dismissing assault charges against teachers.

However, today Education Queensland has a policy against teachers hitting kids,

Topics:  editors picks law and order smack smacking smacking children

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