Welsh politicians must heed a stark warning from New Zealand that a smacking ban does criminalise loving parents, campaigners say.
New legal analysis on the situation in New Zealand – which banned smacking in 2007 – has shown that the law “criminalised parents who smack their children, even if only lightly, for the purposes of correction”.
In Wales, The Be Reasonable campaign has warned that outlawing smacking would see parents handed a criminal record for lovingly disciplining their children.
‘Out of all proportion’
Last month, a twelve-week consultation on banning smacking was launched in Wales with ministers seeking to repeal the existing defence of “reasonable chastisement”.
Politicians and activists pushing for a ban have repeatedly claimed that parents will not be criminalised.
But in New Zealand, a former UK national known as “DC”, was convicted of smacking and lost custody of his sons. His conviction was later quashed by the Court of Appeal, which admitted that the consequences of his conviction were “out of all proportion to the gravity of offending”.
The analysis failed to find a single court decision where it had “explicitly balanced the long term effect of the prosecution or the conviction on the parent-child relationship against the level and frequency of the physical discipline the parent is being charged with”.
It was commissioned by Family First NZ and carried out by law specialists Chen Palmer.
Responding to the legal analysis, Lowri Turner, spokesmum for the Be Reasonable campaign, said: “It should act as a wake-up call to every parent in Wales of the possible consequences if the Assembly presses on with its plans for a ban.
“It highlights cases where parents have been arrested, prosecuted and even convicted for gently smacking their children.
“And it blows apart the claims made by Assembly Members that introducing a ban in Wales will not criminalise parents, as almost identical claims made in New Zealand have been shown to be untrue.”
“There is also clear public opposition to these unnecessary proposals, so we urge Assembly Members to read this report carefully and ditch these plans that will see ordinary parents criminalised and could have profound consequences on their children”, she added.
It comes as a freedom of information request revealed that there were no cases of parents citing “reasonable chastisement” as a legal defence in Wales between 2009 and 2017.
The data from the Crown Prosecution Service also confirmed that in the same period just three instances arose in England
The Be Reasonable campaign said it was evidence that the current law in Wales is working well and does not need changing.