Public’s views sought on Welsh government plans to ban smacking
The ban would mean the defence of reasonable punishment would be removed from offences of battery and assault.
People in Wales are set to be asked their views on the Welsh government’s plans to ban the smacking of children.
If implemented, the ban would make Wales the second area of the UK to end the physical punishment of children after the Scottish Government announced its plans to remove the defence of ”justifiable assault” in Scots law, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.
In Wales, the government plans to remove the defence of reasonable punishment to the offences of battery and assault.
Launching a 12-week consultation on the issue on Tuesday, the minister for children and social care, Huw Irranca-Davies, said the ban would be part of a wider package of measures to support children to have the best start in life.
“We want parents in Wales to be confident in managing their children’s behaviour without feeling they must resort to physical punishment,” he said.
“If there is any potential risk of harm to a child then it is our obligation as a government to take action.
“Legislation was introduced many years ago to stop physical punishment in schools and childcare settings – now is the time to ensure it is no longer acceptable anywhere.”
Mr Irranca-Davies said he was aware there were differing views on the legislation and that the consultation, which closes on April 2 2018, would provide everyone an opportunity to have their say.
The proposed legislation would not result in the creation of a new offence but would instead remove a defence to the existing offences of assault and battery, meaning an adult looking after a child would no longer be able to use physical or corporal punishment against them.
Mr Irranca-Davies added: “As a parent of three boys myself, I know being a parent can sometimes be a challenging experience.
“Children do not come with an instruction manual and sometimes parents need guidance and support to help them raise healthy and happy children.”
He said it was now known that physical punishment could have “negative long-term impacts on a child’s life chances” and was an “ineffective punishment”.
A spokesman for NSPCC Cymru said the charity had long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults.
“We welcome the steps being taken towards removing the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’,” he said.
“Doing so is a common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children.
“It is wrong that a defence which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child.
“Closing this loophole will bring Wales in line with dozens of countries around the world and finally give our children equal protection under the law.”
Other countries that have already made the change include France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland.
Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said the proposed legislation, if accepted, would mean Wales was leading the way “yet again in protecting children’s rights”.
“There has been a lot of misinformation circulating during debates about this topic over recent months,” she said.
“Here are the facts: Welsh Government does not want to create a new criminal offence.
“Welsh Government does not want to criminalise parents.
“What Government does want to do is to ensure children living in Wales are afforded the same protection in the law as adults.
“Hitting or smacking a child is never loving or caring.”
Ms Holland said she hoped many parents and carers would take the time to read the proposals so they could be reassured that this was not about turning good parents into criminals or telling them how to parent but about providing the same protection for children in Wales.