Scottish police chiefs have told MSPs that banning smacking will mean increased costs for the force as officers spend more time investigating parents.
Police Scotland also raised concerns that the ban could be considered state interference in family life, where parents are criminalised for behaviour that has been accepted for “generations”.
The comments were made in a submission to Holyrood’s Equality and Human Rights Committee, which is examining John Finnie MSP’s Bill. The Bill has the support of the Scottish Government.
Police Scotland stated that banning smacking would result in an increase in reporting, which “will have potential cost/resource implications”.
It said where smacking does not cause “significant” harm, there would still “be a duty on the Police to investigate” any reports of ‘assault’.
It added that if enough evidence existed to suggest that a parent or carer had smacked their child it would be required to report it to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Drain on resources
A spokesman for Be Reasonable, the campaign group spearheading opposition to the ban, said the Government needed to “back away” from the plans in light of Police Scotland’s submission.
He said: “The police have rightly recognised that parents and carers are going to end up being investigated and perhaps prosecuted for doing what they have done for generations – lovingly disciplining their children.
“This is unwarranted state intervention at its very worst.”
He added: “The drain on already overstretched resources will put abused children at increased risk of being overlooked.”
‘Insecurity and suspicion’
Sociologist Dr Stuart Waiton also criticised the Bill in his submission to the committee.
He said: “Is smacking especially harmful to children? When we are talking about a light smack there is no evidence for this, indeed a strong argument could be made that other forms of discipline, like being grounded, are far more upsetting for children.”
He added: “By criminalising smacking we degrade millions of loving parents who continue to use a light smack to discipline their children.
“We also encourage an environment of insecurity and suspicion, where parents become anxious about the potential surveillance of their private lives”.
Be Reasonable’s Ciarán Kelly spoke to BBC Radio Scotland’s Kaye Adams, saying there is no need to change the law.
He said: “The sum of this conversation seems to suggest that you can do whatever you like to your kids and get away with it, and of course that isn’t true.
“There is already law in place which protects children. The exception for parents is for reasonable chastisement.
“Reasonable chastisement would be the restraining of a child and putting them in the back of a car, it would be the mild tap on the back of the legs.
He added: “So if you want to do anything more than that, as seems to be being suggested here, you don’t need a new law. That is already criminalised.”