Criminalising loving parents: The best way to a progressive society?
“Smacking is abuse, and anyone who smacks their child is an abuser.”
This is the line being parroted by politicians and anti-smacking campaigners in both Wales and Scotland at the moment, where parents’ ability to lovingly discipline their children is at risk.
They say smacking is variously ‘hitting’ or ‘beating’, ‘violence begets violence’, and that in a ‘progressive society’, any parent who smacks should be punished and re-educated.
This argument simply doesn’t hold water.
In Wales and Scotland where politicians are set to remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement”, 85 per cent of adults say they were smacked as children.
Do our political leaders really believe that 85 per cent of adults in Wales and Scotland are violent criminals?
Currently, the law allows for only the mildest of physical punishments, such as a light smack on the hand or the back of the legs. Anything more than the transient reddening of the skin is already against the law.
Can loving discipline really be deserving of a fine, prison sentence, or losing custody of your kids?
Because that is the situation facing many loving, reasonable parents should these attempts to criminalise smacking be successful.
In New Zealand, where smacking was made a criminal offence in the face of massive public opposition, parents have been prosecuted for gently disciplining their children.
Some of these parents have had their convictions overturned, others have been less fortunate. There have been instances of parents having their children removed, while imprisonment for up to two years can also be ordered by the courts.
So a mother who potentially saves her young daughter’s life by pulling her hand away from a plug socket and giving a light smack as a warning is rewarded for her motherly instinct by having her child taken away.
The cost of virtue signalling
In Scotland and Wales, politicians are quick to point out that criminalising parents is not the intention of the law. Instead it is to ‘change values and perceptions’.
But that’s not how public bodies see it.
Police in Scotland say they will be duty bound to investigate claims of smacking, and that even the mildest cases will likely be referred to the courts – at a cost reaching into millions of pounds.
And hospital officials in Wales say that if they suspect a patient or parent of smacking, they will have to inform social services.
The virtue signalling will come at a cost that goes far beyond finances and the effects on children torn away from their parents.
More than three quarters of adults are deeply concerned that a smacking ban would flood police and social workers with so many trivial cases that they are unable to spot real abuse.
This means countless young, vulnerable children who are at risk of violence could go under the radar.
Is this what they mean by a ‘progressive’ society?