Critics slam Welsh smacking plans, after Westminster move

Proposals for a law which would criminalise parents for smacking their children have come in for fresh criticism from family advocates.

They were speaking as UK Government ministers added an unannounced amendment to the Wales Bill, stating that the Welsh Assembly has the right to legislate on parental discipline.

The amendment is seen to have clarified the Welsh Assembly’s right to legislate on the issue, bringing its plans a step closer.

Visitors

Last summer, Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones indicated his intention to remove the statutory defence of reasonable chastisement from parents who smack their children.

The change would likely affect the millions of tourists from England and the rest of the world who visit Wales each year.

A consultation has been announced and is likely to be followed by legislation.

Contentious and costly

The move at Westminster drew criticism that a Welsh ban would lead to parents being criminalised and dragged through the courts in contentious and costly prosecutions.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: “The Westminster government has been clear that it is opposed to criminalising parents who use a mild smack to discipline their children.

“It therefore seems anomalous for ministers to go out of their way to give the Welsh Assembly the power to do that very thing.

“It is parents, and not national governments, who bear the responsibility for caring for their children, nurturing them, and correcting them where necessary.”

Discipline

His concerns were echoed by Jill Kirby, former Director of the Centre for Policy Studies, and now a writer and family policy analyst. She said: “The politicians in Wales think they know better than parents how to exercise discipline on their children.

“There are situations where parents will decide it is necessary and in the interests of their children to use corporal punishment. A law against smacking conflates mild punishment with violent assault. In reality there is no connection or similarity between a smack by a loving parent and violent abuse.

“Whatever the politicians say a smacking ban will criminalise parents.”

Parental opposition

The most recent poll on smacking – in April 2014 – found that 69 per cent of Welsh adults do not think smacking should be banned.

Read more on the importance of parental freedom to exercise loving discipline over their children.

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