A ban on smacking children is a step closer after the Welsh Government publish a bill removing “reasonable punishment” as a defence.
New legislation which would ban adults from being able to smack their children has been introduced in Wales. Currently parental figures accused of assault or battery against a child can use the Victorian common law defence of ‘reasonable punishment’.
The Welsh Government wants to remove this defence, and if passed by the assembly, it will be made law. Children will then have the same protection from physical punishment as adults. The Children (Wales) Bill would act as the first divergence of core criminal law between Wales and England.
“We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales,” said Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan.
“What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.”
The Welsh Government said publication of the bill today builds on its commitment to children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The new bill is being supported by a host of organisations including the NSPCC, Barnardo’s and Action for Children and comes as Members of the Scottish Parliament consider a private members bill in Scotland, which would remove the defence of “justifiable assault” in Scottish law.
Viv Laing, head of policy at NSPCC Cymru, has said: “It’s wrong that children in Wales have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child.”
“We have long campaigned for equal protection for children and we strongly believe a change in the law is a common-sense move. Closing this loophole brings Wales in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children.”
The Welsh government has insisted parents would still be able to discipline effectively. It said the proposed law would not stop a parent from grabbing a child about to step out into a busy road or brushing a child’s hair against their will.
Around 50 countries have already brought in a ban and another 50 are considering doing so, but there are no plans in England for a similar law.