The Christian Institute

News Release

It’s wrong to lock up parents

A leading pro-family organisation today spoke out against the campaign by the NSPCC and Barnardos to criminalise parental smacking.

Over 90% of parents believe in the value of smacking. There is virtually no support amongst the general public for making smacking a criminal offence. Ordinary parents who donate to these charities would be shocked to discover that their money is being used in a campaign to make them criminals.

In the latest edition of its magazine The Advocate, The Christian Institute points out that the proposed Government consultation on the law covering parental discipline has been triggered by a highly unusual case in the European Court of Human Rights. Hard cases make bad law.

Any new criminal restrictions on ordinary parents will lead to confusion and create a climate of fear amongst parents if recent Court interventions by Social Services Departments are anything to go by.

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute said today:

“Discipline is part of love. The overwhelming majority of parents use smacking as part of raising their children in a caring and loving home.

The campaign to criminalise parental smacking which is being led by EPOCH and assisted by the NSPCC and Barnardos, has ignored common sense and all the research evidence. A major review article in Paediatrics found that in 90% of studies smacking has either beneficial or neutral outcomes for children. It is abuse or neglect which harms children – not loving, parental discipline.

Social Services Departments overstepped the mark in the Orkney Isles and in Cleveland where some children were forcibly removed from their parents on the flimsiest evidence of child abuse.

Now there has been a high profile prosecution of a father in Scotland who smacked his daughter in a health centre when she refused medical treatment. Lanarkshire Social Services appear to have caused much more damage to the young girl involved that the seven smacks which led to their intervention in the first place.

The parent acted unwisely and lost his cool. That was wrong. But until now this has never been a matter for the criminal law. But Lanarkshire Social Services thought they knew better. An unfortunate incident which could have been easily forgotten by father and daughter alike has been turned into a six month nightmare involving grotesque and insensitive State intervention.

Most of the details of the case have been made public, but there are still important questions unanswered. We call on the Scottish First Minister, Donald Dewar, to carry out and publish an investigation into this case.

Over-zealous social workers should be catching child abusers not prosecuting ordinary parents. The Lanarkshire case has undermined confidence in the child-protection system.”