Chris Grayling defends child smacking

Chris Grayling Chris Grayling says that the smacking of children for discipline is something to be done "occasionally"

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Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he smacked his own children when they were young and has defended the right of parents to smack.

The Conservative minister, who has two grown-up children, told the Mail on Sunday smacking young children sometimes "sends a message".

He said it was to be used occasionally but he did not hanker for when children were "severely beaten at school".

He also spoke about prisons, saying they should be "Spartan but humane."

Parents in the UK are not explicitly banned from smacking their children.

But the 2004 Children's Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales for any child punishment that caused such injuries as bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.

Similar laws exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Grayling, who is MP for Epsom and Ewell, told the paper: "You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me," he said.

"I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally.

"Sometimes it sends a message - but I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school."

Child smacking and the law

  • UK parents have not been explicitly prohibited from smacking their children.
  • The 2004 Children's Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales for any punishment towards a child that leads to bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.
  • Any adult found guilty of breaking the law may face up to five years in jail.
  • Similar laws exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • Physical punishment is prohibited in all maintained and full-time independent schools, in children's homes, in local authority foster homes and Early Years provision.

A spokeswoman for the children's charity, the NSPCC, said: "Whilst parents are currently allowed to smack their children, the evidence is continuing to build that it is ineffective and harmful to children.

"There are more positive ways to discipline children and a clear message that hitting anyone is not right would benefit all of society."

Asked about prisons, Mr Grayling said he wanted them to be "Spartan, but humane, a place people don't have a particular desire to come back to".

He said it was not "reasonable for prisoners to enjoy things that those outside on low incomes would struggle to have".

"My idea of prison is not sitting watching the Sky Sports Sunday match."

He said having access to a TV should be a privilege that is earned and he did not approve of prisons buying "state-of-the-art" kit when most people outside of prison had to make sacrifices to buy them.

Mr Grayling also said he would not tolerate gay couples sharing a prison cell.

"It is not acceptable to allow same-sex couples to effectively move in together and live a domestic life," he said.

"If such a thing happened, I would want those prisoners put in separate prisons."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    If you, as an intelligent parent and infinitely more world wise than your children have to resort to acts of violence towards them, then you've momentarily failed as a sentient being. Attempts to explain this in any other way is pure denial and self excusing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    There are lots of people who use violence against children commenting on this. With this general level of ignorance in our society, no wonder Jimmy Saville got away with what he did for so long. Just because lots of people do something, doesn't mean it's right.

    As for 'what's worse: a light tap or a child burning in a fire' Really? is that the level you need to descend to to win this debate?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    The behavioural traits of children vary, some kids are really quite tame, others are naturally very driven. I dont condone beating a child but i could never control my son without the threat of a smack. He would, and has, viewed any other forms of punishment as being something he has to put up with to do whatever he wants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    I sent my naughty child to bed. She stomped off shouting and slammed the door, which earned her a week of no laptop. This resulted in her screaming for several minutes, during which time she was asked/told several times to stop and the laptop ban went to two weeks.

    In the end a single slap to her bottom was what stopped the tantrum.

    It was my last resort. Sometimes it's what's needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    'smacking young children sometimes "sends a message"'.

    Yes it does. That you are lazy and lack emotional discipline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    'Glitches' on the increase for 'technical' reasons a brutal society breeds brutality not in my name or millions of others thanks a bunch

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    Down with smacking ! Up with psychological warfare ! Why inflict temporary mild pain on your child when you can screw them up instead for years with a few choice words ?

    Smacking does not per se equal violence. We have laws already which deal with assault.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    A smack on the back has done no boy any harm, as long as it's hard enough, low enough, and often enough . My maths master circa 1962.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Corporal punishment is just a form of physical abuse. Most civilized countries have made it illegal, but as usual the UK and to a greater extent the US are lagging behind.

    Imagine if you messed up at work and your manager beat you!

    Somehow because they are kids that makes it okay to hit them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 381.

    I wonder what Grayling's children think about his words. I got smacked hard, by my father, as an 8 year old for stealing a small amount of money from my mothers purse . I just think it was abuse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 380.

    3 Minutes ago
    How can anyone say it is all right to hit a child? if nothing else it is an admission that the adult does not have the intellectual capacity to reason with, or outwit, a child.

    My parents were not thick. I was only ever smacked about half a dozen times because I learnt from it. I have not turned into a raving bully or abuser because of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 379.

    "If your child messes with plug sockets, find a way to give yourself and them a small shock, and tell them it's much worse from a socket. TEACH them WHY"

    That's EXACTLY what smacking is

  • rate this

    Comment number 378.

    Do you think it is acceptable to hit someone who has Downs Syndrome because they aren't doing as they are told?

    What about your wife?

    Hitting your children is always abuse. There is no such thing as a light smack - if you're smack is not hard enough to hurt the child, it will not have any affect on deterring bad behaviour. It is pathetic, unnecessary, and harmful parenting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 377.

    #347 - How does the child learn the clear boundary you believe to exist between smacking and other forms of physical retribution. I am saddened that it still has so many enthusiasts,who advocate an form of justfication that is: the child is small and cannot reason so I can hit him because he has the intellectual capacity to appreciate that hitting him is OK but him hitting others isn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 376.

    Who the hell are these people to tell people how to raise their own children? Its none of your damn business if people smack their kids or not. Stop interfering and social engineering and let is live our lives without everything being legislated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 375.

    I am disturbed by the number of people that believe smacking children is acceptable, I dont think these people have any understanding on parenting at all and what impacts this will have on your children. If you were smacked by your parents, do you believe this to be a positive influence on your life? has it led to limitations and problems? do you think violence in anyway is a good thing???

  • rate this

    Comment number 374.

    I know someone who "talks" to their children when they do something wrong. Agonisingly long lectures on morality, delivered to a four and eight year old are a form of abuse in themselves. Suffice to say it has no effect. The two know that all they'll get is a talking to. They act out persistently and sometimes *dangerously*! Not smacking can be just as dangerous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 373.

    No - NO - Smack
    Stop - STOP - Smack

    It is not abuse to resort to a smack it is the proper way to resolve an issue.

    It should never be a regular event but it's threat should always be there. If you do wrong it is going to hurt.

    Regretably in today's society it is a case of if you do wrong it does not matter because there is no sanction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 372.

    You should never hit a child through anger or frustration. It should be controlled, pre-meditated with thought given to where to hit the child and how hard...

    Err... That sounds disgusting and it is. Just don't hit your kids!

  • rate this

    Comment number 371.

    The thing is; all the evidence produced doesn't support smacking as good discipline. It doesn't teach *why* the action is wrong, only that being caught doing it will lead to pain. Plus, it teaches that physical violence is a useful method of coercion.

    That's not some hippy dippy leftie nonsense, that's the actual evidence gathered.

    Why do you think Supernanny never smacks?


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