A Supreme Court move has reignited the debate as to whether
parents should be able to physically discipline their children,
after the Court quashed a decision convicting an Air Force pilot of
aggravated assault for smacking his 12 year old son.
Many Baby Boomers and Generation X will remember receiving a
smack on the behind or a clip across the ear in the event they
misbehaved. However with many parents electing to use alternate
methods of discipline such as the 'naughty corner' or the
suspension of privileges such as television and mobile phones, most
children of modern day parents haven't experienced this form of
One reason that parents may choose to utilise alternate forms of
discipline is that given the increasing awareness and attention on
the issue of family and domestic violence, in some instances a
parent who physically disciplines their child risks being charged
The Crimes Act (NSW) provides for a defence of lawful
correction, stating that where a person has been charged with
applying physical force to a child (such as assault), the charge
can be defended if the force was applied for the purpose of
punishing the child but only if:
The physical force was applied by a parent (in
the case of separated parents, this means the person/s with
parental responsibility for the child) or a person acting for a
parent (this can include a step-parent, de facto partner of the
parent, a relative of the parent, or a person who has been
entrusted with the care and management of the child by the parent -
provided that person has been authorised by the parent to use
physical force to punish the child) and
The force was reasonable in regard to factors
including the age, health and maturity of the child, and the nature
of the misbehaviour.
The law is clear to say that force is considered unreasonable if
it is applied to any part of the head or neck, or any other part of
the body in such a way that it is likely to cause harm to the child
for more than a short period.
Allegations by parents in family law proceedings that one parent
has physically disciplined the child/ren is not uncommon and it is
important to note that, despite the position adopted by state
law, the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court of Australia
regularly inform parties that no form of physical discipline is
tolerated. It's not uncommon for the Court to make Orders
restraining parties from physically disciplining children and the
use of physical discipline by parties will be considered by the
Court (as one of many factors) when determining parenting
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Sect.117 can deal with false statements and knowingly making false allegations of violence could justify a costs order.
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