The Employment Relations Court has ruled that inflicting any form of corporal punishment on a person is an assault and the Ministry of Education has the right to terminate the contract of a teacher.
This was the finding by Justice Anjala Wati in her ruling against Samuela Bulavakarua, a school teacher employed by the Ministry of Education, until his employment was terminated for inflicting corporal punishment on four students by slapping them during the lunch hour inside the classroom on 31st May last year.
Bulavakarua did not deny the allegation of slapping the students but tried to justify his actions on the ground that the students needed to be disciplined and that the student who complained did not receive any injuries.
Justice Wati states that any form of beating, including slapping a child, amounts to physical punishment and is therefore an assault.
She says it does not matter whether the child receives injury and the intention of the person who causes the physical punishment also does not matter.
Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde says this judgment confirms that corporal punishment is assault. Pryde says not only can teachers lose their jobs but they can be prosecuted under the Crimes Act for assault.
He says excuses given by teachers to assault children such as the one given in this case are no longer acceptable and those teachers who assault children can expect to be prosecuted.
Section 274 of the Crimes Act states that a person commits a summary offence if he or she unlawfully assaults a person and can be sentenced to one year imprisonment.