Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland should ban smacking of children following Scottish vote, says NSPCC

The NSPCC has called for legislation to be brought forward in Northern Ireland banning smacking of children (Rebecca Naden/PA)
The NSPCC has called for legislation to be brought forward in Northern Ireland banning smacking of children (Rebecca Naden/PA)

A children's charity has said Northern Ireland should follow the example of Scotland and ban parents and carers from smacking children.

MSPs voted by 84 to 29 in favour of introducing a law which will make it a criminal offence for parents to use physical punishment against a child.

Currently, parents and carers are allowed to use "reasonable" physical force in order to discipline children.

The law change is aimed at giving children the same protection from assault as adults, as well as bringing Scotland into line with United Nations recommendations.

A spokesperson for NSPCC Northern Ireland welcomed the "historic vote", saying it was a "hugely significant step" in protecting children from assault.

“The NSPCC has long campaigned for this development, which will bring Scotland into line with dozens of other countries around the world including the Republic of Ireland," the spokesperson said.

“However, the sterling work in Scotland has placed a renewed focus on the issue in Northern Ireland. While we still might not have a functioning assembly here, it is imperative that work can still continue behind the scenes by all parties to put children at the top of the agenda.

“Assaulting a child can lead to lasting consequences and growing evidence shows that physical punishment increases aggression, anti-social behaviour and depression and anxiety in children, which may continue into their adult lives.

“It is time that Northern Ireland now follows the example of Scotland to ensure local children receive the same legal protection from violence as adults.”

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Children’s campaigners have welcomed Scotland’s smacking ban (Jane Barlow/PA)

The Bill was passed at the Scottish Government on Thursday, despite a YouGov poll of 1,546 adults from across the UK which suggested 57% oppose the move.

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie, who introduced the legislation, said passage of the Bill sent a "strong message" that violence is never acceptable.

He said: "I am absolutely delighted that the Scottish Parliament has taken this historic and courageous step.

"The leadership shown by MSPs will send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting, and that our children deserve at least the same legal protections that adults enjoy."

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