Section 59 is about reasonable force

Over at Mac Doctor’s, there’s a bit of discussion about Section 59.

I focus on part of a reply I made there:

This has been caused by the law which made beating children (with love or otherwise) illegal.

No, it made reasonable force illegal. REASONABLE force.

It seems you can’t argue on this without lying.

To which “Judge Holden” replies:

You can argue semantics all you like guy, and shriek liar when you don’t like the truth. It is what it is, riding crops and all.

Now he is of course referring to the infamous riding crop case.

The boy was asked to assist his stepfather to get some firewood. He refused.Apparently he did not respond well to the man’s encouragement to help. Instead he picked up a baseball bat and swung it full force at his stepdad’s head screaming that he would give him permanent head injuries. Fortunately the man was able to block the blow and disarm the boy. If he had not seen the baseball bat coming, the consequences could have been dire, as the impact to his head could have seriously maimed or even killed the man because he has a closed head injury from an accident some years ago.

So his mother disciplined hom with a riding crop because she couldn’t find anything else. Not a horse whip. A horse whip conjures up visions of a long stock type whip, where a riding crop is a small item, about 18 inches long and is designed to give a short sharp sting with no seen physical effects.

The discipline was controlled, over with very quickly and was very effective, according to the mother. Afterwards the boy gave his mother a hug and apologised for swinging the baseball bat and threatening his stepfather.

The special education services (SES) worke at the boy’s school noticed a change in the boys behaviour at school and asked why there was such a positive change His mother told him about the disciplining. The SES worker told the boys mother that she was not allowed to discipline in this manner, that it was against the law even to smack – which of course is rubbish.

Readers interested can go read the whole story, should they wish.

But here’s the point:

  1. The boy was accused of little short of attempted murder
  2. The boy was punished with an instrument which is basically the same as the time-honored cane. (Actually I can testify from personal experience that the cane hurts more.)
  3. This worked, where nothing else had

From these facts, it’s not hard to see how the jury found the mother not guilty. It’s also not hard to see how easy it was to whip up such hysteria about the case.

But let’s put that aside, and assume that this mother did not, as Judge Holden tells us, use reasonable force (in the circumstances).

(If you read about this case, the police made no reply to the defense, so there is an argument to be made that this case fell through by a poor prosecution.)

Given that you have two options:

  1. The jury got it wrong.
  2. The jury got it right.

If the jury got it wrong, and the force was in fact unreasonable, then there is no need to change the law, and this case is not a demonstration of anything other than police incompetence.

If the jury got it right then we have a case of force that was “reasonable in the circumstances”, yet was also excessive. That is a contradiction in terms*.

It is also the case for the law change to section 59.

In order to “stop abuse” we have declared reasonable actions illegal.

And that nonsense ladies and gentlemen, is now our law.



*One might ask how the Perfect Parent Lobby coped with such a contradiction. Well, that’s simple: they spoke about “reasonable force” as something that allowed abuse. So people began to think about reasonable force not as force that is reasonable, but like those labels you see in the supermarket that say “Real Juce” – just a label, divorced from it’s meaning.

This is of course, how Judge Holden thinks. He can’t refute the words, so has to reference the case to “prove” the words meant something they never did and never will.


  1. Man, does all that sophistry make your head spin? I prefer to focus on the results, which were that children were getting lovingly assaulted with weapons. If a jury finds that reasonable because of a sharp defence lawyer or whatever, it simply means the law should change. Kind of like the removal of provocation defence.

    1. By that logic, you would also remove the defense of innocence. After all, people are found “not guilty” who actually did the deed every day.

      You fail justice 101.

      And yes, your sophistry does make my head spin. That was the entire point of the post.

  2. “By that logic, you would also remove the defense of innocence.”

    You fail philosophy 101. The law was confusing for juries and ended up permitting the beatings of children with weapons. Thankfully it’s gone now and only weirdo arch-conservatives remain obsessed with it.

  3. Ok, it seems that you have trouble with this. I will explain in in the same terms you use.

    “The law regarding innocence is confusing for juries. They frequently end up permitting various crimes including murder. Hopefully we can get rid of it.”

    Uh, I never said you were a “weirdo arch-conservative”, but if that’s the label you want, you are welcome to it.

    1. Also, please tell us of as many instances as you can where a weapon was used to beat a child and the law was successfully used to defend the behaviour.

      I’d ask you to prove a similar instance of serious injuries being let off by S59 but that would be silly as we both know none exist.

  4. What, so the standard for whether force is reasonable should be serious injury? I also like your suggestion that if you stick “reasonable” in front of something it makes it workable in all circumstances and logically impossible foe the law itself to be the cause of poor outcomes (ie the beating of children with weapons). Quite a remarkable legal principle you’ve come up with there. It should be universally applied.

    1. Judge, but according you yourself, no one was beaten with any weapon – otherwise you would have named a case.

      A serious injury would be a clear indicator of unreasonable force. Again, you come up with none.

      I suggest you actually have a browse through the crimes act – you might be surprised.

      But of course, as per usual your entire reply reeks of bad faith. I’ve laid out some clear questions, and you can’t give a straight answer to a single one.

      Perhaps they weren’t easy enough?

      Well, here’s one that’s easy – multi-choice even.

      When is a someone a criminal?
      a) before the commit the crime
      b) after they commit the crime
      c) after they are caught
      d) after they are convicted

  5. “but according you yourself, no one was beaten with any weapon – otherwise you would have named a case.”

    You’re the living embodiment of a non-sequitur. Riding crops anyone?

    Still, that one’s not as good as your notion that because the term “reasonable” was in the law it was impregnable, that’s a doozy.

    1. I’ve edited down your question to demonstrate to you how to answer in good faith. But you have answered. That’s good, we can work from there.

      You have answered incorrectly. The definition of criminal given by google is:
      “A person who has committed a crime.”

  6. Besides, either definition is accepted, and as I said in the comment you edited, that’s irrelevant to the question of whether it ought to be permissable for adults to discipline children.

    1. “either definition is accepted” – what nonsense. You have been proven wrong. I am not at all surprised you refuse to accepted it, given your bad faith, which I must point out continues. (I have again edited the bad faith out of your comment)

    2. I will note for the sake of clarity here that I have edited out the straw-man argument from Holden’s comment.

      I do not and never will support the abuse of children. That is not the debate.

    1. You can call me whatever you like, but the fact remains that you are both a liar and have not made a single comment here in good faith.

      And you I have shown that without a shadow of a doubt, you are demonstrably wrong on at least one point.

      So I guess it’s not surprising that you’re leaving.

      But did you really think that someone who talks so much about child disciple was never going to do something about your childish bad faith posts?

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