England should consider joining Scotland and Wales in banning smacking of children, according to the Children’s Commissioner.
Dame Rachel de Souza has expressed her support for amending the legislation to provide children with the same level of protection as adults against violence.
She told Times Radio: “I absolutely abhor, and I’m against, violence of any kind against children. Because children are more vulnerable than adults, I think we do need to ensure that their rights are supported”.
Wales made all forms of corporal punishment illegal last month, including smacking, hitting, slapping, and shaking.
The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 established the “smacking ban,” which marks the end of the common law defense of “reasonable punishment”.
If a parent or anybody else responsible for a kid while the parents are away is proven to have physically disciplined a minor in any way, they may now face criminal or civil prosecution.
The Welsh Government argued that the decision was about protecting children’s rights, despite criticism that it would criminalize parents.
It was enacted after Scotland adopted its own ban in November 2020.
Smacking a child was previously illegal, and it still is in England and Northern Ireland, but such an assault was permitted as long as it was “reasonable punishment.”
Whether the defense was accepted depends on the facts of each case, including the child’s age and the form of the contact, such as whether it left a red mark or was carried out with a fist or other instrument such as a cane or belt.
Dame Rachel encouraged ministers to examine how the Welsh parliament passed the legislation and said she would support a decision to do so.
Scotland and Wales have done this (banned the physical punishment of children). So we’ve learnt a lot about what that would mean, as it goes into legislation, she said. I think we’ve got a great opportunity to look, watch it, as it’s embedded (in Wales), and I would be supportive – certainly, from what I’ve seen so far – I would be supportive if our government decided to do the same.
Despite the fact that “protections” for children are already “enshrined in law” in England, Dame Rachel praised the Scottish and Welsh governments’ initiatives, saying, “It’s absolutely something I believe we should consider.”
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour Party’s leader, had stated that the decision should be replicated in England and Northern Ireland, calling it “the right thing to do.”
More than two-thirds of adults in England believe it is wrong for parents or carers to physically punish their children, according to a survey commissioned by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, with 58% believing it is already illegal.
More than 60 countries have passed laws prohibiting the physical punishment of children.