Saturday, 28 Nov 2020

Scotland becomes first part of UK to ban smacking children

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to completely ban smacking children.

Parents and carers used to be allowed to smack their children under the ‘justifiable assault’ defence that accounted for discipline that constituted ‘reasonable chastisement’.

Scottish Parliament removed this defence last year, with the new rule coming into effect today. 

Wales was second to make the move in January, but this will not be officially enforced until 2022. There are currently no known plans for England and Northern Ireland to follow suit.

Scotland is the 58th country in the world to ban smacking after Sweden was the first country to do so in 1979.

The change means parents could face prosecution for any type of physical discipline.

Scottish Green MSP John Finnie, who introduced the changes, said he hoped the smacking ban would help parents show children that violence is not acceptable.

He said: ‘As I have progressed my campaign over the last four years, it has been noticeable just how many people believed that striking a child was already outlawed. I am pleased that this will now be the case.’

Scotland’s children’s minister Maree Todd said: ‘I’m very pleased that Scotland has become the first part of the UK to legislate to ensure that children, without exception, have the same protection from assault as adults.

‘This outdated defence has no place in a modern Scotland. It can never be reasonable to strike a child.’

Joanna Barrett, NSPCC Scotland policy and public affairs officer, said: ‘This new law, finally, gives children in Scotland their rightful protection against assault and the same safeguards as adults.

‘By making this common-sense move to get rid of the outdated defence of ‘justifiable assault’, we will be joining more than 50 other countries around the world in taking measures to protect the most vulnerable members of society.

‘This law sets out in clear terms that physical punishment should no longer be part of childhood in Scotland and it marks a momentous step in making it a country where children’s rights are truly recognised, respected and fulfilled.’

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton said he was ‘delighted’ about the change to the law that abolishes ‘this Victorian-sounding legal defence’.

He said: ‘It is backed by countless studies and experts from the Children’s Commissioner to police officers, social workers, nurses, and children’s and parenting charities.

‘It sends a clear message about what kind of country we aspire to be. After defying the UN for years on this, the Scottish Government now need to stop ignoring other international human rights minimums such as setting the age of criminal responsibility at 14.’

When the ‘justifiable assault’ defence existed, parents were generally allowed to hit children on their bodies – but not their faces and not with any tools.

Campaign group Be Reasonable Scotland, which opposed the legislation, alleged ‘even the mildest physical discipline will be treated as abuse’ and could lead to parents being prosecuted.

They have urged the Government to invest in social work to target ‘real abuse’ rather than ‘very mild abuse’.

A spokesman for the group said: ‘In the years ahead, loving parents who have had no contact with the authorities previously and who present no risk to their children will face stressful intervention, blacklisting on police databases and even criminal records for smacking.

‘The majority of Scots see this as an injustice, not a positive change.’

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