An attempt to ban smacking by the Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner has been rejected by the Court of Appeal, and taxpayers will pick up the legal bill.
The judges confirmed that the lawful use of smacking was not incompatible with children’s rights.
The Commissioner, Patricia Lewsley, was challenging the decision by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland to bring the law in the Province into line with that operating in England and Wales.
Under this law parents may use ‘reasonable chastisement’ as long as it does not leave more than a transitory mark on the child.
Miss Lewsley had already failed in this challenge at the High Court. At that point the costs were waived.
However, Miss Lewsley ploughed ahead with an appeal. Having lost for the second time, her office will have to use taxpayers’ money to pay the legal costs.
Miss Lewsley had tried to argue that smacking was a breach of the dignity and wellbeing of children, and as such fell foul of human rights legislation.
But the judges rejected the Commissioner’s claim because they said she could not be classed as a victim under human rights laws.
During the hearing Miss Lewsley’s lawyers argued that smacking a child was like using an electric fence to restrain an animal.
An attempt by MPs to ban smacking last year failed after time ran out for a vote on the issue. The Government has made it clear that it opposes a smacking ban.