Bid to ban smacking in NI is abandoned

The Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner has halted her controversial legal attempts to ban smacking in the Province after running out of money.

Patricia Lewsley who has been criticised for spending over £200,000 of taxpayers’ money in her campaign to ban smacking, admitted any further attempts had been abandoned due to “financial constraints”.

Miss Lewsley is challenging the Northern Ireland Secretary of State’s decision to bring the Province into line with the England and Wales smacking laws.

Under this law parents may use ‘reasonable chastisement’ as long as it does not leave more than a transitory mark on the child.

She has had legal challenges rejected by both the High Court and the Court of Appeal but wanted to continue her pursuit to the House of Lords despite the financial burden on the public.

The DUP has accused Miss Lewsley of wasting public money in pursuit of an “ideologically-driven legal campaign” and called on her “to cease attempting to criminalise loving, caring parents”.

Miss Lewsley said: “I am disappointed that I cannot continue my legal efforts to end the unequal treatment of children who suffer an assault.”

Earlier this year Miss Lewsley was at the centre of a storm when she compared smacking to child abuse during an interview with the Belfast News Letter.

She later denied the accusations, claiming the paper had taken her comments out of context.

The Belfast News Letter made the full audio recording of Miss Lewsley’s comments available online, pointing out that she can be clearly heard agreeing that smacking is child abuse.

An attempt to make smacking unlawful in England and Wales failed last year. Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said at the time that an outright ban “would be the wrong thing to do for children”.

Research conducted at the time by the Government showed that 70 per cent of parents opposed a ban.

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