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Experts call on Assembly to pass ban on smacking

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Children's organisations are urging the Assembly to follow the lead of Wales and introduce a ban on smacking

Children's organisations are urging the Assembly to follow the lead of Wales and introduce a ban on smacking

Children's organisations are urging the Assembly to follow the lead of Wales and introduce a ban on smacking

Children's organisations are urging the Assembly to follow the lead of Wales and introduce a ban on smacking.

The Welsh Assembly passed a bill which removes the defence of 'reasonable punishment' in common assault cases involving parents and their children by a majority of 36 to 14.

Critics of the bill argue it could lead to the criminalisation of parenting and the state stepping into the private lives of families.

Northern Ireland Children's Commissioner Koulla Yiasouma said: "I am delighted that children in Wales are being given full protection against all forms of violence, including physical punishment in the home.

"Children in Scotland have also recently received this same protection, and the Republic of Ireland has had legal protection since 2015.

"Northern Ireland has been left behind and there is absolutely no justification for children here having a lower standard of protection.

"I believe it is only right the law is changed in Northern Ireland so that children are protected in the same way as adults from all forms of assault, including hitting and smacking."

The Welsh Assembly bill was passed with the support of Labour and Plaid Cymru.

However, Conservative Janet Finch-Saunders said she was unconvinced that removing the defence was "right or fair".

Pauline Leeson, chief executive of Children in Northern Ireland, an umbrella body for several rights groups, backed calls for smacking to be banned.

"The introduction of a ban is based on scientific evidence that physical punishment harms children in the long-term," she said.

"We warmly welcome the introduction of a ban in Wales. This will amend a very archaic law that didn't fully protect the smallest, most vulnerable members of our society.

"Changing the law here will ensure that children in Northern Ireland enjoy the same protections from assault as adults."

The NSPCC said the Welsh ban "closed an outdated loophole and finally gives children in Wales the same legal protection from assault as adults".

"Wales is the second UK nation to protect children from legally sanctioned physical punishment, which in turn puts a very stark focus on the lack of equal protection for children in Northern Ireland," it added.

Belfast Telegraph