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Physically punishing children illegal in Wales from today as ‘smacking ban’ law comes into force

21 Mar 2022 3 minute read
A screengrab from the Welsh Government’s smacking ban advert

Physically punishing children is now illegal in Wales after a new law came into force today, leaving England as the only nation in Britain where it is legal to slap a child.

The legislation removes what the Welsh Government called “the archaic 160-year-old legal defence” and provides children with the same protection from assault as adults. The new law will apply to everybody in Wales, including visitors, from today.

Under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 all types of physical punishment, such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, are now illegal. The new law will apply to everybody in Wales, including visitors, from 21 March 2022. It means that parents could now be charged with offences such as actual bodily harm.

The so-called ‘smacking ban’ has been opposed by Welsh Conservatives who have said that it will lead to a will lead to a “Stasi culture” and the UK Government has no plans for such a law change in England.

But Wales’ Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said it was a “historic moment for children and their rights in Wales as we make physically punishing children a thing of the past”.

“I have campaigned to make physical punishment illegal for more than 20 years. I am thrilled that from today children finally have the same protection from assault as adults,” she said.

“The law is now clear – easier for children, parents, professionals and the public to understand. Physical punishment is illegal in Wales and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

“We want to protect children and their rights and this law will add to the fantastic work we are doing to make sure all children in Wales have the best start in life and to live the lives they want to live.”

‘No place’

Welsh Conservatives Senedd Member Gareth Davies had criticised the ban, saying 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.”

The First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford said he was “delighted the physical punishment of children is now illegal in Wales”.

“This is a historic achievement for children and their rights,” he said.

“The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have the right to be protected from harm and from being hurt and this includes physical punishment. That right is now enshrined in Welsh law.

“No more grey areas. No more ‘defence of reasonable punishment.’ That is all in the past. There is no place for physical punishment in a modern Wales.”

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