All four of the UK’s Children’s Commissioners have called for a legal ban on parents smacking their children.
At the moment, British parents can carry out “reasonable chastisement” as long as it does not cause bruising, scratches or cuts. Parents who inflict such injuries can face criminal prosecution.
However, the Children’s Commissioners for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have said that the current laws do not adequately protect children. Speaking to a UN committee in Geneva, Switzerland, they called for a change in the law.
Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said that the current law on assault offers children less protection than adults, which was “simply unacceptable”. She called on governments across the UK to introduce new laws which would “ensure children under 18 have the same protection from physical punishment as adults”. The permission of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is “inconsistent with the ambition for every child to realise their rights under the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child”, she claimed.
Their arguments against the current laws were supported by the NSPCC. A spokeswoman for the charity said that “smacking is not the best way to resolve problems or improve behaviour” and in fact only teaches children to use violence themselves.
If someone was trying to convince an adult to do something they would not resort to violence, she insisted, “so why would you do that to a child?”
The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is an independent body responsible for promoting and protecting the rights of children and young people.
Smacking is illegal in countries such Spain, Germany and Holland as well as many eastern European countries. However the UK government said it would not change its position. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said that there were already “protections in place to make sure children are not assaulted in any way” and that there “no plans to change” the rules on ‘reasonable chastisement’.