Parents do risk being arrested if they give their child a gentle smack, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
Contrary to previous assurances, new guidance tells those working with children to call the police or social services if they see or suspect a parent has smacked their child.
The controversial law removing the legal defence of reasonable chastisement will come into effect in Wales on 21 March.
The Government leaflet containing the latest information states: “Anyone who physically punishes a child will be breaking the law, risks being arrested or charged with assault” and “may get a criminal record”.
It advises those who “see a child being physically punished” or who are “concerned about a child” to contact their local social services department or to “call the police in an emergency, or if a child is in immediate danger”.
According to the guidance: “It isn’t possible to give a set list of what makes up physical punishment because it can be anything where a child is punished using physical force.”
In 2018, the then First Minister Carwyn Jones told the Senedd that the proposed legislation “will not criminalise parents”.
A spokesman for pro-parent group Be Reasonable said: “Good parents know that sometimes toddlers can put themselves or others at risk and you have to intervene physically to protect them.
“But, come March, if somebody sees you do that and reports you to the police you might find yourself under arrest. This is madness.”
He added: “Let’s be clear, this change to the law has little to do with tackling genuine abuse, which is already illegal.
“Instead it criminalises good mums and dads for nothing more than tapping their toddler on the back of the hand or the bottom for misbehaving.”
Costly and unpopular
In a consultation in 2019, two-thirds of individuals who responded opposed a change in the law.
And a survey of more than 200 councillors revealed more than 7 in 10 opposed a ban, with 9 in 10 saying councils would not have the resources to cope.
In 2020, a financial assessment estimated that the scheme will cost between £6.1 million and £7.8 million to implement and run over a five-year period.