The Christian Institute

News Release

Unworkable smacking laws will catch loving parents

Parents will be plunged into fear and confusion following new anti-smacking laws to be brought in by Jim Wallace.

Scottish Ministers initially wanted a three month prison sentence for the first smacking offence rising to six months for the second offence. Stunned by the public reaction to this, A few months ago, Ministers floated the possibility of compulsory parent retraining courses instead of jail. Either way, the parents would have had a criminal record. Now the Bill has been published it is clear that a smacking offence will be treated as assault with the real possibility of prison for parents.

The UK Government is not changing the law for England and Wales. Explaining why, the Health Minister Jacqui Smith said

“We do not believe that any further change to the law at this time would be appropriate – it would neither command widespread public support nor be capable of consistent enforcement”

Department of Health Press Release ‘Protecting children and supporting parents’, 8 November 2001

Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of The Christian Institute, said today:

“It seems that while the Westminster Government has rejected any need to change the law, Jim Wallace doesn’t have as much trust in Scottish Parents.

The existing laws are tough enough and fair enough to protect children. Jim Wallace’s proposals will catch ordinary parents because they take a blanket approach. All smacks to children under three will become criminal offences.

These proposals are hopelessly naïve. In the real world children misbehave and it can be a tough job bringing them up. Now parents face the added stress of possible arrest.

Mothers going out to the shops with their pre-school children will fear arrest simply for trying to keep their children under control. A mother trying to restrain her 6 year-old boy throwing a tantrum at a roadside will fear that she will be had up for a “shaking” offence.

I fully support tough child abuse laws like the ones we currently have. But instead of going after child abusers the Executive will be forcing police and social workers to go after ordinary parents. If the police were to enforce this new law consistently the majority of loving parents would become convicts. This shows how ridiculous and unworkable the proposals are.”