Smacking ban will destroy trust in families, says legal expert

Scotland’s proposed smacking ban would unfairly criminalise parents and “destroy family relations and trust”, a legal expert has warned.

The Secretary of the Scottish Law Agents Society voiced his concerns in evidence given to Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee last week.

Michael Sheridan said the Bill would see parents unfairly prosecuted, for using “mild” and “reasonable” discipline on their children.

Reasonable

The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill was proposed by Green MSP John Finnie, who seeks to remove the existing defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’.

Sheridan said removing this parental protection would see mild physical interventions, such as a tap on the wrist, treated as criminal assault.

Even putting children into a state of apprehension “where no actual contact takes place” may also be enough to criminalise parents for assault.

Michael Sheridan

He said parents could “be guilty of assault, even if acting reasonably”.

Even putting children into a state of apprehension “where no actual contact takes place” may also be enough to criminalise parents for assault.

‘Appropriate’

Those backing the Bill claim that it will give children the same protections against assault as adults.

But Sheridan said existing law is “a wholly appropriate mechanism” which protects children and families.

A spokesman for Be Reasonable, the campaign backed by The Christian Institute, said: “John Finnie and others constantly deny that good parents will be criminalised but legal experts totally contradict this.”

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