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Monday, June 22, 1998 Published at 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK


Boy fights for smacking ban

The court will decide if the boy's caning degraded him

A case that could lead to the UK being forced to ban corporal punishment is being heard by the European Court of Human Rights.

BBC foreign affairs correspondent Fergus Nicoll: a parent cannot injure a child
The case centres on a 14-year-old British boy who was caned by his stepfather five years ago.

His stepfather, who was tried for assault, was acquitted in 1994. Now the boy, who cannot legally be named, is suing the UK government under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government has conceded that the punishment of the boy - who had been placed on the Child Protection Register - breached his human rights.

But lawyers for the teenager are pressing ahead with the case, hoping for a ruling that outlaws corporal punishment.

'Law failed to protect boy'

The boy alleges the UK failed to protect him from degrading treatment and punishment, which is outlawed by the convention. A ruling is not expected before the autumn.

BBC foreign affairs correspondent Fergus Nicholl said: "Existing law in England and Scotland hinges on the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act which allows parents to use what it calls 'reasonable chastisement'.

"A parent can hit a child to keep him or her in line but not hard enough to cause injury.

"The hearing centres on Article Three of the European Convention on Human Rights. The boy alleges that the law failed to protect him from degrading treatment or punishment."

Violation of convention

Activists fighting for children's rights want a clear ruling to the effect that children should receive as much legal protection as adults.

Six European countries have already banned the physical punishment of children.

The case was lodged with the European Commission in July 1994 by the boy and his natural father.

A spokesman for the court said: "The European Commission has found there was a violation of the convention on human rights, and the government has conceded that.

"What the appellant appears to want is something more than that, he is looking for some sort of statement that says corporal punishment is wrong."

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