A group of cross-party Welsh Assembly ministers are urging the Welsh Government to enforce a ban on using ‘legal chastisement’ as a legal defence for smacking children.
Although previous attempts to do so have been unsuccessful, four AMs have tabled a debate in the Senedd, the Welsh National Assembly building, about making smacking a criminal offence.
Parents and ministers are divided on the issue of smacking, with some believing it is a useful disciplinary tool and others believing it tantamount to child abuse.
Labour AM Christine Chapman believes that alternative methods of discipline are superior to smacking.
She said: “There’s a lot to suggest smacking doesn’t work.
“What message are you giving out that in order for them to do what you want you have got to use physical force? Really, we are way behind other countries.”
Plaid Cymru AM Lindsay Whittle feels that it would be simple to enforce a ban on smacking, saying that enforcing it would be “no more difficult than any other act of violence against individuals”.
He said: “This is something where the assembly could really make a major impact, one of the first big laws we could pass since the new powers.”
However, Conservative AM Darren Millar is opposed to banning smacking as he feels that parents should have the right to use any disciplinary methods available to them.
He said: “Physical chastisement is a tool. It’s not the only tool but it can be extremely effective and useful, and can be far less damaging.
“I think the vast majority of parents know where to draw the line. People use it as a reasonable punishment and they ought to be able to continue to do so.”
In Britain, under the 2004 Children’s Act, parents and carers are allowed to smack children as long as it amounts to “reasonable punishment”. Any smacking which results in bruises, swelling, cuts, scratches and grazes will be punishable by a jail sentence of up to five years.
In the EU, apart from Britain, there are only four other countries which do not outlaw smacking children.
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