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Last Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2006, 18:09 GMT
Fresh call for child smacking ban
Actors simulate the threat of a smack
The children's commissioners want smacking banned
Scotland's children's commissioner has called for smacking to be outlawed.

Professor Kathleen Marshall wants to see the removal of the defence of "justifiable assault" for parents who hit their children.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said the majority of people did not support a smacking ban.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council said attitudes to smacking were changing for the better and it warned against criminalising parents.

The UK's four children's commissioners have issued a joint statement calling for further debate in parliament.

They have been urged by the United Nations and the Council of Europe to ban all forms of corporal punishment against children.

The commissioners want legislation introduced to ban the defence of "reasonable punishment" throughout the UK.

Kathleen Marshall
We need a clear statement in law that gives children the same rights to protection from assault as adults
Kathleen Marshall
Children's Commissioner

In 2002, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child said it "deeply regrets that the (UK) persists in retaining the defence of 'reasonable chastisement'".

A year later the Scottish Parliament voted to restrict the scope of "reasonable chastisement" by setting out criteria for determining whether an assault on a child was "justifiable".

Twelve months ago Westminster voted to restrict "reasonable punishment" in England and Wales.

'Confuses parents'

However, the children's commissioners have said the concessions do not go far enough to protect children or to respect their rights under international law.

Prof Marshall said: "This is an issue that is not going to go away.

"We need a clear statement in law that gives children the same rights to protection from assault as adults, and we need more positive support for parents."

The commissioners' statement said: "We believe that condoning smacking gets in the way of progress.

"It confuses parents, inhibits child protection and undermines the promotion of positive forms of discipline.

The whole idea of physical punishment is moving away from where it was 10 or 20 years ago
Judith Gillespie

"It conflicts with our governments' aspirations for children and our society."

A spokeswoman for the executive said: "When we consulted on this the majority of people, 77%, were in favour of some sort of tightening of the law.

"But only 34% want to see a smacking ban altogether. And against that any ban would be difficult to enforce."

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council said it was concerned parents could be alienated if the law was changed.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Sunday Live programme, spokeswoman Judith Gillespie said: "The whole idea of physical punishment is moving away from where it was 10 or 20 years ago.

'Non-violent discipline'

"People are not actually pro-punishment in any way, shape or form. If you then cut across this and criminalise parents at this stage then you're likely to up the ante rather than allow this natural process to carry on."

Kelly Bayes, of the charity the Aberlour Child Care Trust, said the issue needed to be re-examined.

"A growing number of organisations and professionals support the commissioner's stance," she said.

Child with no-smacking banner
The Scottish Tories believe the law should not be changed

"We're looking at legal reform because those involved in protecting children from abuse want the law changed to provide a clear basis for child protection.

"As the law stands it undermines the work of health visitors, midwives and all those who try to promote positive, non-violent discipline."

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said the current law was firm enough to protect children and parents.

She said: "The law differs from adults and children for very good reason and the law on reasonable chastisement is fair and sensible.

"It puzzles me why the children's commissioner, who is appointed by the devolved parliament, now appears to be taking this issue to a UK minister who has absolutely no competence to deal with it."

Hear why the commissioner wants a smacking ban



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