Should smacking your child be a criminal offence?

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The debate on smacking children has surfaced again with the UK’s Children’s Commissioners calling on the United Nations to change the law and make it illegal.

As it stands, the law in England and Wales allows parents to carry out ‘reasonable chastisement’, but they could end up in court if a child suffers bruising, cuts or scratches.

Now the country’s four Children’s Commissioners have called on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, meeting in Switzerland, to change the law to protect youngsters, telling officials it is ‘simply unacceptable’ that the law gives children less protection from harm than adults. They are calling for ‘positive and non-violent forms of child rearing and behaviour management’.

Commissioner Sally Holland said: “This is a fundamental issue of equality and human rights and the current legal defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ is inconsistent with the ambition for every child to realise their rights under the United Nations Convention on the rights of the child.”

And the Commissioners have the backing of the NSPCC, whose spokesman said: “Parents are often under pressure but the NSPCC believes smacking is not the best way to resolve problems or improve behaviour. Hitting children only teaches them to use violence.

“If you were trying to convince an adult not to do something you wouldn’t hit them, so why would you do that to a child?”

Despite previous pleas to make smacking illegal, the Government has refused to back down from its current policy of ‘reasonable chastisement’.

Smacking is already banned in dozens of countries, including Germany, Spain, Holland and much of Eastern Europe.

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