B.C. parents guilty of assaulting daughter over sexting photos

The father said that they were a religious family and believed, as the Bible teaches, to use the “rod” to spank and not the hands.
The father said that they were a religious family and believed, as the Bible teaches, to use the “rod” to spank and not the hands. iStock.

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

One British Columbia couple didn’t spare the hockey stick on their daughter and were charged with assault.

In R. v. T.F. and T.A.F., a religious couple physically disciplined their 14 year old daughter because she had sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend.

When her father found out about the photos, he gave her a choice of punishments: either to be grounded or to be spanked.

She chose to be spanked. Her father then took a mini hockey stick and hit his daughter on her buttocks after which her mother hit her with a skipping rope on her buttocks. The punishments left serious bruising on the child’s behind.

The court looked at two issues in the case:

  1. Did the child consent to the spanking?
  2. Can s. 43 of the Criminal Code provide a defence for the parents?

The case really centers on the question whether a child can even give consent to assault.

The court referenced the case R. v. Stanley, which stands for the principle that true consent to assault “must be freely given with appreciation of all the risks and not merely submission to an apparently inevitable situation.”

In this case, Judge Edmond de De Walle found there was no consent, because the child couldn’t fully understand what the spanking would mean to her. She didn’t know or understand how she would be spanked nor what the consequences of the spanking would be.

Furthermore, De Walle found that consent is rarely available in a case where a parent spanks a child, because parents are in a position of authority.

Turning to the second issue: could the spanking law, also known as s. 43 of the Criminal Code, excuse the parent’s use of force?

The section states that a parent, or someone in place of a parent, may use corrective force on a child or student, but the force used must be reasonable.

The Supreme Court case Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada (Attorney General), limited what is considered reasonable, to force that had to be either for the education of the child or to correct the child’s bad behaviour.

In this case, De Walle rejected the notion that s. 43 could be used as a defence. He found that the parents didn’t try to talk to her about her actions or get her help to deal with what she had done, and found that their actions were for punishment purposes only.

What made things worse, in the court’s mind, was the fact that a mini hockey stick and a skipping rope were used to hit the child, which the court referred to as “weapons” and left the child with injuries.

The father explained that they were a religious Christian family and he believed, as the Bible teaches, to use the “rod” to spank and not the hands, because the hands are an instrument of love.

The court rejected this argument by saying the personally held beliefs of the parents cannot be used to break the law.

De Walle found the parents guilty of assault.

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