Wales May Become First UK Country To Ban Parents From Smacking Children
Wales might become the first UK country to ban parents from smacking their children, with ministers in Cardiff looking to remove the common law defence of 'reasonable punishment' - which parents and guardians can use should they be accused of assault or battery against a child.
Scotland is also looking to impose the same ban, with a new bill proposed by Green MSP John Finnie. A vote is due to be held in the Scottish parliament at some point next year, with the bill expected to pass and consequently become law.
If passed, the Welsh bill - published today (Monday 25 March) - will not stop a parent from actions such as grabbing a child about to step out onto a busy road, or brushing a child's hair against their will.
But Wales' Deputy Minister For Health And Social Services, Julie Morgan, has said that while smacking may have been deemed appropriate in the past, it is 'no longer acceptable'.
"We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales," Morgan said.
"What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity."
The Government-led bill has been supported by a number of children's organisations, including Barnardo's Action for Children and the NSPCC.
Viv Laing, head of policy at NSPCC Cymru, said: "It's wrong that children in Wales have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child.
"We have long campaigned for equal protection for children and we strongly believe a change in the law is a common-sense move. Closing this loophole brings Wales in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children."
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Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, also added: "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."
Some campaigners, however, have argued the proposed changes would criminalise parents.
Lowri Turner, of campaign group Be Reasonable, said: "It is disappointing that the Welsh Government has decided to press on with this unnecessary piece of legislation that will do nothing to protect children, but will criminalise loving parents.
"As we have seen from a slew of Freedom of Information requests, parents suspected of smacking face suspension, investigation by the police and social services, and prosecution."
If the proposal goes ahead, Wales would join the 54 other countries that have already banned such physical punishment of children.
Sweden was the first to do so back in 1979, and has since been followed by the likes of Greece, Latvia, Albania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya.
If passed by the Welsh Assembly, the bill - published today assembly, it will be made law and children will have the same protection from physical punishment as adults.
Assembly members (AMs) will have to debate the bill in the Welsh Assembly before deciding whether or not to pass it, although there is not yet confirmation of when this might be.
Featured Image Credit: PA