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Friday, 13 September, 2002, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Smacking ban thrown out
Smacking graphic
The justice committee rejected a ban on smacking
Proposals to ban the smacking of children under the age of three have been abandoned by Scotland's justice minister.

The decision by Jim Wallace was announced after a parliamentary committee published a report which rejected the establishment of an offence banning the smacking of toddlers.

However, Mr Wallace said he would go ahead with other constraints on the punishment of children which were not rejected by the Scottish Parliament's Justice 2 Committee.

The Scottish Executive had aimed to clarify the law on child punishment and whether it was unreasonable to smack a child who may be too young to comprehend right from wrong.


We do not wish to see an increase in the prosecution of parents for moderate physical punishment

Pauline McNeill
committee convener

Other proposals - including a plan for some 16 and 17-year-olds to be dealt with at children's hearings, rather than court, and the introduction of "victim impact statements" - have also been rejected.

MSPs have spent months scrutinising Mr Wallace's Criminal Justice (Scotland) Bill.

Unveiling the proposal on smacking in March, the executive said it was not creating a new offence but removing the defence of "reasonable chastisement" to a charge of assault.

However, Justice 2 Committee convener, Labour MSP Pauline McNeill, said "We do not wish to see an increase in the prosecution of parents for moderate physical punishment.

Parental support

"And we do not accept that it is realistic to remove an available defence to the charge of assault while at the same time reassuring parliament that the number of prosecutions will not increase as a result."

"The committee strongly supports any measures which will reduce harm to or abuse of children and welcomes the general trend in society towards less physical punishment of children."

The MSP added: "The committee suggests that the option of public education and improved support for parents, as an alternative to legislation, may have been dismissed too easily."

Responding to the report, Mr Wallace said: "I have discussed the position with First Minister Jack McConnell and we recognise the strong views of our parliamentary colleagues.

"We will therefore recommend to cabinet that the age related element does not proceed.

"We will of course continue to pursue a range of measures to further protect young children from physical abuse."

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace dropped the smacking ban
Mr Wallace stressed that the committee had backed other elements of the bill, including tougher sentences for child pornography, action on stalking and tighter constraints on high risk offenders.

On other aspects of child punishment, MSPs accepted that there should be a "blanket ban" on blows to the head.

They also accepted the intention behind a ban on shaking or the use of an implement to strike children but asked for more clarification.

The committee report was critical of plans to send some 16 and 17-year-olds to children's hearings, rather than to the courts.

MSPs said: "The committee does not support the proposal for a youth crime pilot as it currently stands, although we were interested in the proposal by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland to limit the pilot to first time offenders."

MSPs dismissed proposals for victims of crime to give "impact statements" which would be available to the courts.

Sheriffs who gave evidence at public sittings of the committee were critical of the proposal.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Kirsten Campbell reports
"Ministers said they were willing to listen to advice on the issue"
Kirsten Campbell reports
"The Justice Committee says a law is unnecessary and unworkable."
See also:

13 Sep 02 | Scotland
13 Sep 01 | Scotland
06 Sep 01 | Scotland
08 Feb 00 | Scotland
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