Scotland becomes first part of UK to ban smacking children


PTI, Oct 5, 2019, 10:54 AM IST

London: Scotland has become the first part of the UK to make it a criminal offence for parents to smack their children.

The move passed overwhelmingly by the Scottish Parliament, will give children in Scotland the same protection from assault as adults when it comes into force.

Parents and carers in Scotland are currently allowed to use “reasonable” physical force to discipline their children.

The ban on all physical punishment was backed by 84 votes to 29 by the Parliament on Thursday, the BBC reported.

The smacking ban bill was introduced by Scottish Greens lawmaker John Finnie, a former police officer, who won the support of the Scottish National Party, Labour and Lib Dems as well as his own party and many children’s charities, it said.

Finnie said smacking teaches children that “might is right”, and that the ban would “send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting”.

He also said there was “irrefutable” evidence that physical punishment damages children, is not an effective form of discipline and can escalate into physical abuse.

The ban was opposed by the Scottish Conservatives, who claimed the bill was bad legislation that risks criminalising “good parents” for using “reasonable chastisement”.

But the Scottish government’s children’s minister, Maree Todd, insisted that “loving parents” would not be criminalised.

The law will come into force within 12 months after Queen Elizabeth II gives her consent.

Sweden became the first country in the world to ban smacking in the home when it outlawed corporal punishment in 1979 – with Scotland becoming the 58th to do so, the report said.

Wales is also on the verge of introducing a ban – but there are not currently any plans for England or Northern Ireland to follow suit.

In Scots Law, all physical attacks on adults can be treated as assault – but children do not have the same protection.

This is because a person accused of assaulting of a child can claim a defence of “reasonable chastisement” or “justifiable assault” when they have used physical force as a form of discipline on children under the age of 16.

When deciding whether the chastisement was reasonable, the courts take into account factors such as the nature of the punishment, its duration and frequency, the age of the child and the effect – both physical and mental – it had on them.

In practice, this generally means parents are allowed to smack their children on the body – but blows to the head, shaking or the use of an implement are illegal.

All physical punishment in schools and other education settings is already completely banned.

The bill uses the same definition of physical punishment, sometimes referred to as corporal punishment, used by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Research examining the views of children on smacking has suggested that it hurts and upsets them, and does not always stop bad behaviour.

Parents in England and Wales can currently face criminal charges if they hit a child so hard that it leaves a mark, or causes bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.

However Wales is close to an outright ban, with a bill currently working its way through the Welsh assembly that would remove the defence of “reasonable punishment” that has been in force since Victorian times in England and Wales.

There have been calls for England to follow suit, with the Association of Educational Psychologists saying last year that smacking is harmful to children’s mental health and should be banned.

Northern Ireland has similar legal provisions to those in England and Wales, while Ireland banned smacking in 2015, the report said.

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