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Corporal punishment of children banned by law in Wales

Monday, March 21st 2022 - 18:27 UTC
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Corporal punishment of children is still tolerated in England and Northern Ireland if it constitutes a “reasonable” measure Corporal punishment of children is still tolerated in England and Northern Ireland if it constitutes a “reasonable” measure

Effective Monday, Wales has banned all sorts of bodily punishment on children, which are still legal in England and Northern Ireland. Slapping or even shaking a child is tantamount to assault perpetrated against an adult, according to the new rules in force. Until Sunday, slapping was tolerated if it was a “reasonable punishment.”

The four nations that make up the United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales) have their own regional parliaments with powers over matters such as health and education. Over 60 countries worldwide have legislation against the physical punishment of children, while the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states that minors should be protected from physical and mental harm.

The “smacking ban”, as it is known, was brought in under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act of 2020 and marks the end of the common law defence of “reasonable punishment.”

Under the new law, children will get the same protection from assault as adults, and the law will apply to everyone, even those visiting Wales – as is the case with all Welsh laws. Parents or anyone responsible for children in the absence of their parents may now end up facing criminal or civil charges if they are found to have physically disciplined a young person in any way.

However, there were those opposing the new law, citing it would criminalize parents, despite which the Welsh Government insisted on moving forward with the norm change because it was about protecting children’s rights.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children have the right to be protected from harm and from being hurt and this includes physical punishment. That right is now enshrined in Welsh law. No more grey areas. No more ‘defence of reasonable punishment’. That is all in the past. There is no place for physical punishment in a modern Wales.”

Scotland introduced its own ban in November 2020. In England and Northern Ireland, smacking a child is unlawful, but allowed nonetheless as long as it is deemed a “reasonable punishment.”The validity of such an argument hinged on several factors, such as the age of the child and the nature of the contact, including whether it left a red mark or was carried out with a fist or implement such as a cane or belt.

Deputy minister for social services Julie Morgan called the day a “historic moment for children and their rights in Wales”.

Viv Laing, from NSPCC Cymru Wales, said: “Until now, children were the only group in our society who it was acceptable to strike in certain circumstances. We don’t allow the physical punishment of adults or animals, so it is absurd that we have for so long with children. NSPCC Cymru/Wales has long been clear on this, and now, at last, the law is too.”

Categories: Politics, International.

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