Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Wednesday, May 19, 1999 Published at 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK


Law change plea after smacking trial

The conviction of a father for smacking has provoked huge debate

Children's charities have called for clarification of the law after a father was convicted of assault for smacking his daughter.

BBC Scotland Correspondent Andrew Cassell: "Witnesses said he'd used extreme force"
The 48-year-old Scottish teacher was found to have gone beyond the bounds of "reasonable chastisement" when he smacked her on the buttocks in a health centre because she refused to have her tooth extracted.

But while the man, who now faces the sack, expressed regret, he said he hoped his case would act as a warning to other parents.

The father - his voice has been disguised
He added that he was a "conscientious father, a very good father".

In response to the case, some charities have called for a review of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937.

[ image: Anne Stafford: Call for review of the law]
Anne Stafford: Call for review of the law
Scottish law says any pain inflicted must not last "more than a short time" but the charities argue this is open to interpretation.

Rachel Hodgkin, from EPOC, which campaigns for an end to the corporal punishment of children, said that "while there is no law which states that children can't be assaulted, we're going to have cases such as these".

Anne Stafford, of Children First, said the charity had been pushing for some time for the law to make clear "what actually constitutes an offence".

Rachel Hodgkin: "these sort of cases will become more common"
Heather Walker, of Children in Scotland, which opposes the smacking of children, agreed.

"We don't believe that every parent who smacks a child should be taken to court," she said. "But parents should know in advance that they shouldn't be smacking children.

But Tino Ferrie, of teaching union NAS/UWT, said parents are dealing with the issue of disciplining their children "every single day" and were capable of knowing where to draw the line.

However, he accepted the court's finding that the use of force by the teacher was excessive.

[ image: Tino Ferrie: Parents must have rights]
Tino Ferrie: Parents must have rights
lan Miller is the senior official at the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration, which is responsible for hearings involving children. He said there is "almost always a better way of dealing with a parenting difficulty than resorting to violence".

But not everyone felt the law should be altered. Valerie Riches, director of Family and Youth Concern, said laws to ban corporal punishment would be "very bad news for ordinary parents".

She said: "It would make parents who just give an ordinary smack to their children for bad behaviour subject to criminal assault."

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesman confirmed the man had been suspended from his job and said a decision on his future would be taken by the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

Sheriff Dan Russell deferred sentence until 9 June for reports.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

19 May 99 | UK
Father guilty of smacking assault

11 Jan 99 | UK
Smacking children 'does not work'

30 Oct 97 | UK
Outcry over 'safe smacking' video

Internet Links

Latest news - Children in Scotland

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online