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Bill Banning Smacking of Children Passed In Wales Assembly

By LawStreet News Network      31 January, 2020 06:01 PM      0 Comments
Bill Banning Smacking of Children Passed In Wales Assembly

In a big move for Wales, a bill banning the smacking of children was passed in the assembly. The members voted 26 to 14 in the Senedd on 28 January, 2020 in favour of the Welsh Government bill. Other 58 nations, including Scotland, currently have laws that prohibit physical punishment of children.

The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill was led by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan, who said there was “no such thing as a loving smack”. The legislation would come into force in 2022 after gaining royal assent following a GBP 2 million awareness campaign. 

The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford who is supporter of the bill, said, “I’m proud Wales has taken this step and once again put children’s rights at the heart of what we do here. Times have changed and there is no place in a modern society for the physical punishment of children. Wales joins Scotland in being the first parts of the UK to see through a positive change to this key piece of legislation.”

The law, however, could lead to deterring parents from holidaying in Wales. Welsh Conservative assembly member Janet Finch-Saunders said, “I don't want people to be thinking, ‘I'm not going to Wales as I'm unclear about the law and I can't reasonably parent my children’.

“We don't want reports of people coming on holiday to Llandudno and suddenly getting a knock on the door of their hotel, where somebody has accused them of smacking their child and they're completely oblivious to this.”

She was unconvinced that a ban was right or fair. She also added, “With this bill the state is now stepping into the private lives of families. This smacking ban will potentially have far-reaching consequences for us all.”

Many believe that the law would do little for the betterment of children that are abused by their parents and guardians. It would in turn have a negative impact on the families.

Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociologist at Swansea University and spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, said, “The smacking ban bill is simply bad policy."

“It will result in highly negative intervention in good families, increased pressure on beleaguered social services departments and will do nothing to help children who are genuinely at risk of abuse.

“The Government has chosen to ignore a plethora of concerns about this legislation. Sadly, it seems the negative impact of the smacking ban will only be realised when it has come into force.”

The change in law will remove the common law defence of reasonable punishment which is currently available to parental figures if accused of assault or battery against a child.

It is the first divergence of core criminal law between Wales and England, where parents would still be able to legally physically punish a child as long as it is deemed ‘reasonable’.

Author: Nandini Gandhi

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