Page last updated at 06:58 GMT, Tuesday, 21 April 2009 07:58 UK

Bid to outlaw smacking abandoned

Angry dad
Smacking has been a controversial issue

The NI children's commissioner has abandoned attempts to ban smacking because of "financial constraints".

In February, the Court of Appeal dismissed Patricia Lewsley's latest attempt to outlaw smacking.

Her office incurred costs of £81,329, even before having to foot the bill of taking the case to the Court of Appeal.

PUP leader Dawn Purvis said the lack of funds was concerning, adding: "If the children's commissioner cannot act on behalf of all children - who can?"

Ms Purvis added: "This has been a contentious issue, however the children's commissioner has been put in place to look after the interests of all children.

"This is an issue that she has found to be a priority and yet she does not feel she has the funds to address it."

Ms Lewsley said she was disappointed that she could not continue her legal efforts to end the "unequal treatment of children who suffer an assault".

"However, I will continue my efforts to make sure that children have equal treatment and protection in law," she said.

Defence

Ms Lewsley had been criticised by the DUP who accused her of mounting an "ideologically-driven campaign which attempts to criminalise parents", but she insisted her court action had been taken to protect children.

"The law as it stands makes it illegal to hit a child, but a defence is available to parents to a charge of common assault of a child," she said.

"I believe that is unclear, confusing for parents, and needs to be reformed. It should be clear that there is to be no more hitting of children in Northern Ireland."

She added: "In the same way as hitting adult partners was made illegal and without any defence, I am confident that one day there will be no defence for hitting a child."

The cost of the Court of Appeal action is not yet known.



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SEE ALSO
Smacking court battle cost 81k
30 Mar 09 |  Northern Ireland
Smacking saga could go to Lords
03 Mar 09 |  Northern Ireland
Commissioner loses smack appeal
20 Feb 09 |  Northern Ireland
NI children's role for politician
15 Dec 06 |  Northern Ireland

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