Wales one step closer to making smacking illegal

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Wales is today introducing legislation to end the physical punishment of children.

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The Welsh Government is introducing a Bill to end physical punishment of children

The Welsh Government is bringing its Children Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly.

If the Bill is passed by the Assembly, parents and other adults acting in a ‘parental capacity’ will no longer be able to physically punish children. It will give children the same protection from physical punishment as adults.

Under the Bill, the common law defence of reasonable punishment will be abolished so any adult acting in a parental capacity cannot use it as a defence if accused of assault or battery against a child.

Across the UK

The move by the Welsh Government follows in the footsteps of Scotland. Last year, Green MSP John Finnie proposed and lodged a Bill in the Scottish Parliament to remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’, which allows parents to use reasonable physical punishment on a child.

The Bill has passed the first stage of the legislative process and is expected to come into force next year.

In England and Northern Ireland, parents are allowed to use 'reasonable chastisement'. There are no plans to criminalise smacking.

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Wales' deputy minister for health and social services Julie Morgan said, ‘We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales.

‘What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.’

Wales’ legislation will be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents, aiming to help and eliminate the use and tolerance of physical punishment of children in the country.

Ms Morgan added, ‘More than 50 nations across the world have already responded to the international call to end the physical punishment of children.

‘With the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child this year, it is very fitting that Wales is taking this significant step in expressing our country’s commitment to protecting children’s rights.’

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said it was glad to see that the Welsh Government wants to give childen the same protection from physical punishment as adults.

President Professor Russell Viner said, 'When a parent raises a hand to a defenceless child - whether that’s a smack, slap or another physically harmful behaviour - they have lost control. Research tells us that children who are physically punished are more likely to have poorer mental health and physical well-being and when they grow up, are more likely to engage in self-destructive or antisocial behaviour. Hurting a child isn’t acceptable and it is a form of child abuse.

'It’s time to change to the law to make it clear that physical punishment is unacceptable.'

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