Wales consults on plans to ban smacking

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The Welsh Government is holding a public consultation on plans to ban parents and carers from smacking children.

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Welsh children's minister Huw Irranca-Davies at Mini-Miners Club Day Nursery in Ystrad Mynach at the launch of the 10-year children's plan last month

The Welsh minister for children and social care, Huw Irranca-Davies, has launched a 12-week consultation on the Welsh Assembly proposal’s to remove the defence of reasonable punishment in Wales.

The consultation follows Scotland's commitment to become the first country in the UK to outlaw smacking children, which is expected to be put to a vote in the Scottish parliament this year.

The proposed legislation would not involve the creation of a new offence but remove a defence to the existing offences of assault and battery. It would mean any adult looking after a child would no longer be able to use physical or corporal punishment against them.

Launching the consultation, Huw Irranca-Davies said, ‘We all want to give our children the best start in life. As a parent of three boys myself, I know being a parent can sometimes be a challenging experience. Children do not come with an instruction manual and sometimes parents need guidance and support to help them raise healthy and happy children.

‘Our knowledge of what children need to grow and thrive has developed considerably over the last 20 years. We now know that physical punishment can have negative long term impacts on a child’s life chances, and we also know it is an ineffective punishment. Whilst physically punishing children was accepted as normal practice in previous generations, we know that it is increasingly being seen as less acceptable and parents feel less comfortable.

‘We want parents in Wales to be confident in managing their children’s behaviour without feeling they must resort to physical punishment. If there is any potential risk of harm to a child then it is our obligation as a Government to take action. Legislation was introduced many years ago to stop physical punishment in schools and childcare settings – now is the time to ensure it is no longer acceptable anywhere.

‘This is why as a Government we are bringing forward legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment, to make it clear that physically punishing a child is no longer acceptable in Wales.

‘I am aware there are differing views on this legislation; this consultation provides an opportunity for everyone to have their say to help us try to address concerns as the legislation develops.’

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said his members will have a free vote on the issue.

An NSPCC Cymru/Wales spokesman said, ‘The NSPCC has long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults so we welcome the steps being taken towards removing the defence of “reasonable punishment”. Doing so is a common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children.

‘It is wrong that a defence which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child. Closing this loophole will bring Wales in line with dozens of countries around the world and finally give our children equal protection under the law.’
 
The consultation will run until 2 April 2018.

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