Harmless smack ‘will be abuse’ under proposed law

Parents who discipline their children with a “harmless” smack will be treated as child abusers, a leading Scottish legal expert has clarified.

Michael Sheridan, Secretary of the Scottish Law Agents Society, said that the Bill to ban smacking in Scotland confuses loving parental discipline with violence.

Professionals have repeatedly warned that a smacking ban would divert resources away from tackling genuine child abuse.


Mr Sheridan explained that the legislation is unnecessary since the present law only permits a mild smack – punishments including using an implement and shaking are already illegal.

He said: “The criminalisation of a parental slap across the bottom or the back of the legs by merging it into a definition along with these clearly reprehensible activities is, perhaps, not rational at all.”

He also cautioned the Scottish Government against introducing laws “which contradict widely-held public sentiment”, highlighting that most people do not agree with a smacking ban.

‘Unwanted, Unwarranted, Unworkable’

Responses to a recent Scottish Government consultation shows that almost all Scots oppose plans to ban smacking.

Holyrood’s consultation found that barely three per cent of the general public are in favour.

Two serving police officers were among those expressing opposition, warning that Police Scotland would be “overwhelmed” with “trivial” complaints.

Be Reasonable Scotland, the campaign group spearheading opposition to the ban, said the submissions ‘demonstrate’ a ban is “unwanted, unwarranted and unworkable”.

Spokesman Simon Calvert said: “There are 614,000 families with dependent children in Scotland and many of these parents face the threat of being criminalised if this Bill goes through and they are found to have given their child a light smack. That’s chilling.”

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