Posted: Tue 7th Aug 2018

Smacking ban in Wales divides public opinion

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Aug 7th, 2018

Plans to introduce a smacking ban in Wales have split opinion – however a slight majority believe the move will fulfil the overall aim of protecting children’s rights.

At the start of the year the Welsh Government launched a public consultation about its plans to introduce legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.

If implemented, the ban would make Wales the second area of the UK to end the physical punishment of children after the Scottish Government announced its plans to remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.

The proposed legislation in Wales would not result in the creation of a new offence but would instead remove a defence to the existing offences of assault and battery, meaning an adult looking after a child would no longer be able to use physical or corporal punishment against them.

The consultation, which was launched in January and closed in April 2018, was designed to gather feedback from the public and key stakeholders to further develop a Bill and to help the Welsh Government to address any concerns as the legislation develops.

Yesterday a summary of the consultation results were released, with the consultation finding that just over 50.3% agreed and 48.1% disagreed with the statement that the legislative proposal will achieve the aim of protecting children’s rights; 1.5% said “don’t know”.

Comments submitted opposing the legislation included undermining children’s rights to learn boundaries and discipline, criminalising parents and removing parents’ rights to choose how to raise their children.

It was also suggested that the legislation would not protect children from child abuse.

However those in favour of the proposals argued that the proposals will help “ensure children’s rights are safeguarded and that children are provided with the same legal protection as adults”; and that the “legislative proposal will remove any confusion or lack of clarity around what constitutes physical punishment.”

Minister for Children, Huw Irranca-Davies said: “As a government, we are committed to introducing legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment, which will prohibit the physical punishment of children by parents and those acting in loco parentis. This reinforces our long-standing commitment to children’s rights.

“The consultation we launched earlier this year was intended to help inform our legislative proposals, ensuring we develop the very best legislation to help us achieve our aim. I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to respond.

“The responses received will be considered during the development of the Bill.

“While the primary responsibility for raising children lies with parents, the Welsh Government has a very specific role in creating a society in which children can grow up in a safe and nurturing environment.

“Our commitment to introduce legislation, alongside support for parents, is key to us achieving success in this endeavour.”

An NSPCC Cymru spokesperson described the change as a “common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children”.

The spokesperson added: “The NSPCC has long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults.

“The Welsh Government’s consultation on this issue was an important step and it’s heartening to see the level of public response. It is wrong that a legal defence which does not exist in a case of assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child.

“The proposed bill will bring Wales in line with other countries around the world by giving our children equal protection under the law.”

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