‘Smacking ban does more harm than good’

A ban on smacking ‘does more harm than good’, and Scottish parents should argue strongly against any attempt to change the law, a pro-family campaign group has said.

Family First New Zealand has highlighted the dangers of such a legislative change, using evidence from the effects seen there.

The group has been contacting politicians and family organisations in Scotland after Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell signalled that ministers are considering a ban.

Undermining parents

New Zealand brought in a ban on smacking children in 2007 but in a 2009 referendum, 87 per cent of the population voted against it. However, the Government chose not to change its approach.

Writing in The Scotsman newspaper Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First, said that the New Zealand law is doing “more harm than good” and that it has “targeted law-abiding parents”.

He wrote: “Anti-smacking laws assume that previous generations disciplined their children in a manner that was so harmful that they would now be considered criminals.

“This undermines the confidence of parents in disciplining their children, fails to understand the special relationship and functioning of families, and has communicated to some children that they are now in the ‘driving seat’.”

Political ideology

McCoskrie added that the supporters of smacking bans are “influenced by political ideology rather than common sense, good science and sound policy-making”.

This was a message echoed by Revd David Robertson, Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, in the same publication. He said he was opposed to any form of abusive behaviour towards children but that an all-out ban on smacking was “over the top”.

Revd Robertson said: “To criminalise parents who may be good and loving people and are only looking out for their children is just daft and is just another example of the moral thought police approach.”

Reasonable chastisement

Parents in Scotland are currently allowed to smack their children under the defence of “reasonable chastisement”.

However, it is illegal to discipline by shaking, or using any implement, or by a smack directed at the head.

In England and Wales, any smack that leaves more than a temporary mark may be illegal. Any smack that causes reddening of the skin that is more than transitory could potentially result in prosecution. A similar law exists in Northern Ireland.