The Ashburton Guardian. FRIDAY, DECEMBER 3, 1880 Wife Desertion.
FIRST EDITION. [lssued at 4 p. in. ] —i.t ww ..i * uiMaiit
At the sitting of the Charitable Aid Board in Christchurch, on Wednesday, it was reported that no less than 37
wives and 116 children were receiving aid from the Board in consequence of having been deserted by their husbands and fathers, and in view of these state of things, Mr. Montgomery .moved the following resolution, which was carried : That the return be forwarded to the Colonial Secretary, calling bis attention to the necessity which existed for legislation, so as to enable the Board not only to bring back the deserters from other colonies, but to punish them by imprisonment. Christchurch is not the only place in
the colony of New Zealand in which deserted wives and children are to be found, their presence in the communities of the colony being only too general. Not a meeting of any charitable or benevolent association has been held for some time back, without comments having been made on the number of deserted wives and children, and remarks made upon the necessity for special legislation on the subject, with a view to reducing the grievance, or at least punishing the deserters. Thereare, webelieve, hundreds of wives and families throughout New Zealand, the husbands and fathers of whom are to be found in neighboring colonies, and who ' have escaped thence for no other purpose than to, avoiding supporting their dependants. Many of those . men have been stopped' temporarily while on their way by the police, in response to telegrams received from the places whence, they hailed, but the law does not recognise a telegram as a warrant, and the delinquents have escaped. When, however, they do get brought before the Court the utmost extent of the Court’s power appears to be to make an order for the contribution by them of so much per week for the support of the family, and the blackguard husband and parent is allowed to go. ■ Of course he promises to faithfully discharge the duty which his position, lays upon him, and which has been made doubly incumbent by an order of the Court. For a week or two he behaves himself, and acts like a dutiful bread-winne r , but as soon as he gets a fair chance he goes off, and before a warrant for his apprehension can be made out he is en route for Sydney or Melbourne. What appears to be wanted is that in cases of this kind wife deserters should be liable to be apprehended on the strength of a police telegram, detained in custody till a warrant arrives ; and further that the police should but put in a position that would enable them to bring deserters back from their places of refuge. It seems to us to be far more criminal on the part of a strong, able-bodied man to desert his wufe, and the children she has born to him, than it is for him to be guilty of a petty larceny; and, as it was put by Mr. Montgomery, the man by his desertion commits a crime not only against those he deserts, but against the colony itself, for to it he leaves the support of his wife and offspring. Instead of simply making an order to pay, if the unnatural father were sent to gaol for a time, and a tangible punishment inflicted upon him that he would feel, he would very soon drop down to the conviction that it was better to work for Tirearl to liia-wife «n<l children than to bolt and leave them like the coward that he is. Thereare often, we confess,' extenuating circumstances, that might be adduced in cases of wife desertion, when, for instance, a woman is a worthless character, but we know of no circumstances that can extenuate the desertion to the world’s mercy by a father of the helpless children to whom he has given paternity. Men who do this do not deserve any leniency, and upon them the law ahould be smart in its punishment. Only punishment can cure a coward, and desertion of the kind we are now speaking is cowardice in the extreme. Perhaps the deserter’s heart may be reached more effectually through his hide than by any other means.
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