Mother Prosecuted For Discipling Her Children
'Smacked Back' by Tony Keim and Margaret Wenham Headlines The Courier-Mail 7/8/2008

A MOTHER'S thrashing of her two young children with a leather belt has reignited calls for a state ban on excessive smacking.

The Ipswich woman, 27, narrowly escaped jail yesterday for "disciplining" her son, 7, and daughter, 9, after they failed to properly clean their bedrooms.

Ipswich Magistrate's Court was told the woman forced both children to bend over a bed and whipped them up to 14 times on June 15.

Magistrate Matthew McLaughlin said the beating had "turned his stomach" and displayed an "element of cruelty" that would make any parent ill.

Former attorney-general Dean Wells said the sickening case strengthened calls for an urgent overhaul of state laws that allowed "reasonable force" when disciplining children.

"Changing the laws will help educate people about alternative ways of dealing with children's minor transgressions," he said.

Mr McLaughlin seriously considered jailing the mother of four when told she had two previous convictions for violence, in 1995 and 2006.

In sentencing her to two years' probation, Mr McLaughlin said the only things that kept her out of jail were her apparent remorse and the fact that the previous offences did not involve children.

The woman, who cannot be named to protect the identity of her children, pleaded guilty to two counts of assault causing bodily harm.

Prosecutor Rose Kane said the children gave police a graphic account of the violence meted out by their mother.

The little boy had said his mother gave him five lashes on his buttocks and the back of his neck for not cleaning his bedroom to her approved standard.

He also received five whacks on his shins with a fly-swatter for fidgeting because he was cold, while helping to wash up.

Constable Kane said the mother then negotiated with the nine-year-old girl, who only wanted three or four lashes, over her failure to clean her room. In the end she gave her daughter 14 lashes.

Mr Wells said it was nonsense to suggest that changing the Criminal Code so light smacking would be allowed — but so there was no defence to injuring a child under the guise of discipline — would lead to the criminalisation of parents.

Mr Wells has just returned from a "fact-finding" mission to New Zealand, where anti-smacking laws were introduced last year.

"What I found in New Zealand was business as usual with the exception of a huge sigh of relief from prosecutors, because child assault cases could no longer be turned into a trial of the child," he said.