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Report submitted to UN insists that smacking should be banned in Britain

Report submitted to UN insists that smacking should be banned in Britain

A report submitted to the United Nations insists that smacking children should be outlawed in Britain in order to bring the UK in line with international law. It states that parents should be taught alternatives to smacking, with the law amended to remove defences that permit parents to utilise corporal punishment.

Children should be afforded the same protection from harm as adults

A report, sent to a UN committee, has assessed whether the UK is living up to its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a major international treaty dealing with diverse child-related issues, from kidnapping and sex trafficking, to the right to education and clean water.

The report claims that in order to be compliant with international law, Britain should outlaw smacking. The four commissioners – representing England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales – call for the “immediate” repeal of the laws that permit parents to deliberately hurt their children as a form of punishment. It urges the Government to teach parents who use physical punishments with their children to be taught alternatives.

Under current laws in England and Wales, parents who smack their children have a legal defence against any accusations of assault, if they can demonstrate that their actions can be considered “reasonable punishment”. This is defined by whether or not a mark was left on the child and whether the parent used an implement to exert their discipline. Northern Ireland and Scotland have separate concepts of “justifiable assault” and “reasonable chastisement”.

However, charities have long argued that children should be afforded the same protection as adults from harm and physical assault.

“Actively promote positive and non-violent forms of child rearing”

The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was first signed by the UK 25 years ago, provides children with a general protection against being “hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally”. The interpretation of this provision remains contentious.

The commissioners’ report cites the different legal defences available to parents and concludes that UK laws do not adequately protect children. It considers the various attempts to change the law, which have so far been rejected by both Westminster and the devolved administrations. It states:

“The state party and the devolved governments should immediately prohibit all corporal punishment in the family and in all other institutions and forms of alternative care, including through the repeal of legal defences, and actively promote positive and non-violent forms of child rearing and behaviour management.”

Additionally, the report calls for the age of criminal responsibility, which currently stands at 10 years old in most of the UK, to be increased, in order to bring it in line with wider-European standards. The average age of criminal responsibility across the EU is 14. Further, the report is critical of Chancellor George Osborne, claiming that austerity measures are driving millions of households with children below the poverty line.

Tam Baillie, Commissioner for Children and Young People Scotland, stated: “The current child poverty rate across the UK makes a mockery of our international obligation.

“It is deeply disturbing that the UK Government, aware of the current and future impact of its cuts, appears to be targeting the most vulnerable people in our society.”

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