Over 600 written responses were submitted to a consultation launched by the Welsh Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee on the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.
The Bill aims “to abolish the common law defence of reasonable punishment so it is no longer available in Wales to parents or those acting in loco parentis as a defence to assault or battery against a child.”
If enacted, the legislation would remove the right of parents in Wales in both criminal and civil law to claim that smacking a child is a reasonable form of punishment.
The Committee is holding its final session on the Bill today and is expected to publish its report by 2nd August.
The move represents a shift in thinking around the world on smacking, as a growing body of research emerges showing that hitting a child can be hugely detrimental to their development.
Currently 54 countries have banned corporal punishment in all settings, including the family home.
The bill if ratified into law is highly unlikely to see swathes of parents being sent to jail. To date we have not come across any cases of parents being sent to prison for smacking their children in jurisdictions where smacking in the home is banned.
Instead, these provisions send out a message that children deserve the same rights in law that adults – and animals – enjoy, and allow us to access and harness better alternatives for setting boundaries within parenting.
Within the UK, Ireland was the first state to implement legislation banning smacking (a term we dislike because it downplays child assault and battery), which it did in 2015.
Scotland has also promised to incorporate similar legislation. The session held by the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee on 6th June offers some very useful information while looking at the possibility of repealing the criminal defence to ‘justifiable assault’ of a child.
The Lord Advocate The Rt Hon. James Wolffe, QC., and Anne Marie Hicks, the National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse took part in the session. Hicks’ department made the news last month after a man from Glasgow became the first person to be convicted under new Scottish domestic abuse legislation which came into force on 1st April.
On June 6, the Scottish Parliament Equalities and Human Rights Committee heard from the Lord Advocate and the National Procurator Fiscal for Domestic Abuse. They addressed questions from the Committee regarding prosecutorial policies in light of the possible repeal of the criminal defence to ‘justifiable assault’ of a child. Their answers are very informative and useful for any common law countries considering law reform.
England continues to ignore repeated calls for legislation banning the defence of reasonable chastisement of children in the home.
Very many thanks to Professor Joan Durrant and the Global Initiative for sharing the development with Researching Reform.