Call for England to follow Wales and ban smacking children
Children’s charity the NSPCC have called for England to follow Wales and to ban the defence of “reasonable punishment” when smacking children.
From March 21, the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 will come into force, giving children in Wales the same legal protection from assault as adults.
The NSPCC said England should follow suit with an outright ban on smacking.
Joanna Barrett, NSPCC associate head of policy, told the Chronicle newspaper: “Over 50 countries have taken the vital step to give children the same legal protection from assault as adults. This has not involved creating a new offence, but simply removing an out-of-date defence.
“There is mounting evidence that physically punishing a child is not an effective way of disciplining them and that it can have lasting and harmful impacts on their lives. There is also nothing to suggest these changes have led to the increased criminalisation of parents.
“Scotland joined the club in 2020 and Wales will follow suit in a matter of days, and we support the removal of the obsolete defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ for assaulting a child from law in England and Northern Ireland as well, putting these countries in line with the rest of the UK.”
The UK Government have said that the Children Act 2004 already makes it unlawful to assault a child causing actual or grievous bodily harm.
If a child has suffered, it is for the Child Protective Services (CPS) to decide what charges, if any, would be appropriate.
A spokesperson for England’s Department for Education said: “The Government does not condone any violence towards children and has clear laws in place to prevent it.
“We are supporting teachers, social workers and all safeguarding professionals to spot the signs of abuse or neglect more quickly, and our statutory framework for safeguarding children in England makes clear what organisations should do to keep children safe.”
The Welsh Conservatives have criticised the ban in Wales, saying that it will lead to a “Stasi culture”.
Senedd Member Gareth Davies said that the Welsh Government “didn’t seem to be able to let go of the authoritarianism developed during the pandemic”.
“A campaign that urges people to report those who use more traditional parenting methods than nosey ones in the Labour Government is introducing a Stasi culture to Wales.
“I urge the Labour Government to urgently rethink the campaign and inform parents of the new law rather than urge people to report their fellow citizens who are parenting their children as they see fit.”
Simon Calvert of the Be Reasonable campaign, which opposes the change in the law, said: “This recent guidance gives the lie to the frequent claims made by ministers, officials and activists that repealing the reasonable chastisement defence would not criminalise ordinary, loving parents.”
He added that the move had “little to do with tackling genuine abuse, which is already illegal” and said that “many people will think they have been misled over the impact of this ban on ordinary parents”.
A Welsh Government spokesperson responded: “We have always been clear that this legislation is about protecting children and their rights. It gives children the same protection from assault as adults.
“It will make the law clearer – easier for children, parents, professionals and the public to understand. From 21 March, all types of physical punishment will be illegal in Wales.”
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