Star , Issue 6444, 25 March 1899, Page 5
CHRISTCHURCH. Saturday, March 25. [Before Mr R. Beetham, S.M.]
"Petty Theft.— Frederick Armitage, ten years of age, and Albert Amos, fourteen years of age, were charged with having, on March 20, stolen a bicycle lamp, value 7s 6d, the property of John Carl. Detective Chrystall outlined the facts of the case.
On March 20 Mr J. Carl, licensee of the Empire Hotel, left a bicycle lamp in a room on the ground floor of the hotel, access to which could be gained both from the rear end front of the premises. No one, however, had any right to enter the room, which was a private one.
The lamp was, in the course of a few hours, missed, and it was later ascertained that the two accused had offered it for sale to Mr Pyke, second-hand dealer, who, not considering the boys answers as to how they came by the lamp satisfactory, telephoned to the police.
On being questioned by Detective Fitzgerald, one of the boys admitted that they had taken it from a "passage". Sergeant Dugan said the boy Amos was allowed by his parents to run wild about the streets, where he was to be seen selling flowers. The other boy was unknown to the police.
Mr Beetham sentenced each of the accused to receive twelve strokes of the birch rod."
In 2009, New Zealanders are caught up in a debate over a much milder form of corporal punishment: the smacking of children by parents.
Legislation passed in 2007 essentially criminalised smacking by withdrawing the justification of discipline as a defence against a charge of assault of a child under section 59 of the Crimes Act. A public initiative campaigned for a national referendum on the matter, the results of which will merely be advisory or informational for the government.
Voters have until 21 August to vote in the referendum on the question: "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"
No one, it must be pointed out, is calling for a return of the birch, though no doubt in some dark alley somewhere there are still a few troglodytes muttering to themselves "bring back the birch".