SCOTLAND’S Children’s Commissioner has renewed calls for a ban on smacking, by scrapping the “unbelievable” law that allows a defence of justifiable assault for parents who hit their children.
Tam Baillie, whose second and final term of office ends on May 17, said the failure to see the law changed on the physical punishment of children was his greatest regret about his eight years as Scotland‘s Commissioner.
Under section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ is available where it is claimed that an act against a child was a physical punishment carried out while exercising a parental right.
Attempts to change this as part of the 2014 Criminal Justice bill have failed. As a result Scotland along with the rest of the UK is among only five European countries which have yet to commit to giving children equal protection from assault, Mr Baillie said, adding: “We are now absolutely in the minority of countries in Europe on this.”
Lithuania banned the physical punishment of children in February and even Zimbabwe banned the smacking of children in the home last month, he added.
Mr Baillie said: “Zimbabwe is an oppressive regime, seen by much of the Western world as a pariah state – but even children in Zimbabwe get better protection than they would in Scotland. The Scottish Government have an ambition for Scotland to be the best country in the world to bring up children. How can we claim that as long as we maintain this tradition of physical punishment?”
The argument against a smacking ban has been founded on parents’ rights to decide how to discipline their children, claims that it does no harm and that a ban risks criminalising parents, but none of this is backed by evidence, Mr Baillie argues.
“Ireland changed the law and it has not resulted in parents being criminalised or being unable to control their children. There has been some evidence of a rise in people seeking help when they are in difficulties. There are other ways of being able to parent your child.”
International evidence overwhelmingly supports a ban, he said. “The evidence couldn’t be clearer. If you introduce equal protection[against assault] there is a corresponding reduction in the physical abuse of children.”
If the law didn’t exist, nobody would seriously contemplate introducing a law allowing the assault of children, he added. “People say a smack can protect a child from danger, but if you had an older person with dementia who was putting themselves in danger, because they don’t know better, would the first thing you think of be to hit them, to get that across? Of course not. That just wouldn’t be acceptable.”
Mr Baillie said he accepted he might be characterised as an extremist for his stance but said change would come when this was no longer the case, viewing a change in the law as similar to the smoking ban – where a cultural change quickly became irreversible.
“I think we will end up with parents saying ‘why on earth did we tolerate this for so long. Many politicians privately agree with me but publicly they are reluctant to declare a position for fear of being accused of interfering in family life.”
Mr Baillie is supported in his position by children’s charities and many legal experts. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute of Health Equity and the current President of the World Medical Association for 2015-16, contributed to a joint report Mr Baillie’s office published with Barnardo’s Scotland, Children 1st and the NSPCC in 2015 calling for change.
Sir Michael said: “The international evidence could not be clearer – physical punishment has the potential to damage children and carries the risk of escalation into physical abuse. Scotland is out of step with Europe and increasingly, the world. There is an urgent need for Scotland and the rest of the UK to comply with international human rights law and to prohibit all forms of physical punishment.”
Jackie Brock, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, said: “We share Tam’s frustrations about lack of progress on this long-standing issue. Children are still the only group not to be protected by law from being hit. Evidence is even stronger now of a link between poor emotional wellbeing over the long term and being hit as a child. Every parent should have the right to discipline their child, but there are certain circumstances and acts that can never be tolerated, and physical violence against a child is one of these. We will continue to press for a change in the law.”
The Scottish Government’s position is one of opposition to the physical punishment of children, but ministers have argued that changing the law risks seeing parents unnecessarily or unreasonably criminalised, and the best way of preventing smacking is by funding “positive parenting support”.
(I am only talking about smacking used VERY OCCASIONALLY as a method of punishment/teaching a lesson. I AM NOT talking about violent, aggressive, regular beatings of any kind.)
I have MANY MANY children!! (okay so not THAT many! I have 5!)
I don’t agree with smacking children. I don’t smack my kids.
Although I have done twice in the past, once with my eldest.
She was about 5/6 yr old & i was babysitting my friends child, who was only a wee tot, about 18 months old & had not long started walking. I was on the phone to my daughters dad at the time & i was telling him how she had been cheeky to me!! During the call i walked halfway up the stairs to grab the washing off the radiator, she was one step behind me & the toddler was standing on the bottom step. Well, she was angry with me for grassing her up & i watched her outta pure temper storm down the 6 steps & push the baby off the bottom step!! It was right at the front door & we had a glass panel at the side of the door, She pushed him full force, he flew.. she could have killed him. & so i put her over my knee & i smacked her. 3 smacks using what i’d consider a reasonable force, hard enough she felt it & it was sore, but not so hard i actually hurt her.
I HATED MYSELF for smacking her. I think smacking her did me more damage & taught me more of a lesson than it did her. But none the less, it did teach her a lesson. She never did anything remotely similar again. She knew she had gone too far. But she only knew that because I smacked her which i had never done before. So it gave her a big fright.
That day I promise myself i would NEVER lift my hand to her again & i never did, not to any of my kids.
That was up until my youngest!!! I smacked him only a few years ago!!
He was about 4/5 years old & we were standing on the pavement waiting for the road to clear so we could cross.
He just ran out on to the road..
My heart both jumped into my throat & plummeted to feet at the same time. He was VERY nearly run over. He would have been had it not been for the quick reaction of the driver who slammed on the brakes & my own reaction of running after him & grabbing him by the scruff o the neck.
I was just so scared.. He coulda been killed & i wanted him to remember the incident as a bad thing, so he didn’t do it again. So, when i got him back onto the pavement i smacked him on the hand & again, i hit him hard enough that he felt it. It worked! He never did it again!
Both times i really hated myself for smacking them, & although i wish i had found an alternative way, if i am honest, i can’t say i think i was all that wrong & i can’t say for definite i won’t do it again. It would depend on circumstances, but it would have to be pretty bad before i smacked any of them & they are all a lot older now so its very unlikely i will ever be in a situation that i would consider smacking them.
As a general rule, I don’t think people should smack children, BUT there are circumstances that i consider understandable. That is down to individual parents.
I certainly do not think “laws” should be passed that tell us how to parent our children.
They are OUR CHILDREN.
NOT ScotGov’s NOT ScotCops NOT the Children’s Commissioner’s. OURS
It’s just more interference into family life. If they want to REALLY HELP Scotland’s children, DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE RAMPANT PAEDOPHILIA
You only have to look at the treatment of Hollie Greig here or here which you can see they are still desperately covering up, here here & here. Or the treatment of CSA survivors here here & here to see how much those in a position of power value OUR kids, & that’s before i even mention the likes o Nicky Fairbairn & other VIPaedo here here & here whose REPULSIVE, EVIL CRIMES are STILL being covered up.
& LET’S NOT FORGET THE DOCHERTY KIDS.
Just look at how they have have ALL IGNORED their plight, look at how those poor kids have been treated & the powers that be are STILL not doing the right thing by them.
I WILL TAKE PARENTAL ADVICE FROM OUR “BETTERS” THE VERY SAME DAY THEY
- A. GIVE BACK THE DOCHERTY KIDS
- B. GIVE THE CSA SURVIVORS A FAIR & JUST INQUIRY
- C. COME CLEAN OVER THE VIPaedo
- D. STOP PROTECTING NONCE CHILD RAPISTS & JAIL THE BASTARDS
- E. START PROTECTING OUR KIDS
BUT UNTIL THEN..
NOT A CHANCE IN HELL
BECAUSE I FULLY INTEND TO DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO KEEP ALL THOSE IN POSITIONS OF POWER AS FAR AWAY FROM MY KIDS AS IS HUMANLY POSSIBLE