Is it illegal to smack a child? Here is what the law says in England, Wales and Scotland

PARENTS will always want the best for their children, but there may be things that don’t realise are illegal to do.

Sunday, 12th June 2022, 12:57 pm

If you fall foul of these laws, you could run the risk of fines or even jail.

Here are things that it is illegal for parents to do in the UK:

Slapping or smacking your child

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Things it is illegal for parents to do.

In Wales it is illegal to use any form of corporal punishment on your child – this includes smacking, slapping.

This law came into force in March 2022.

Scotland also made it illegal to physically punish your child in 2020 – including slapping and smacking - meaning that children have the same protect from assault as adults.

In England it is unlawful to smack your child, but there is an exemption if it amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’.

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Leave your child on their own

The law does not say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says:

- children under 12 are rarely mature enough to be left alone for a long period of time

- children under 16 should not be left alone overnight

- babies, toddlers and very young children should never be left alone

Parents can be prosecuted if they leave a child unsupervised ‘in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health’.

Using the wrong car seat

There are laws around the use of child car seats in vehicles in the UK.

Which? says that the ‘law states that children must use a child car seat until they're 12 years old or 135cm/4ft 5in tall, whichever comes first’.

Drivers also have to make sure that kids are wearing seatbelts.

If you are convicted you could face a fine.

Let your child skip school regularly

It is against the law to let your child skip school regularly.

A couple of sick days is understandable, but if your child is missing school often then you could risk a spell in prison.

Under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, there is a maximum penalty of three months in jail for parents of persistent truants.

There is exemptions for children who are homeschooled.

Give them alcohol

It is illegal in the UK to give a child alcohol if they are under 5 years old.

Buy alcohol for children

It is illegal to buy alcohol for anyone under the age of 18.

Take a child abroad without both parents permission

If you have shared custody of your children, then you need to be careful if you are thinking of going on holiday abroad.

Under the law it is illegal to take a child out of the country without permission of both parents.

It is considered to abduction if you take a child abroad without consent.