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 570.

    "559. fuzzy
    If the child does not understand what's wanted of it smacking won't make it understand, but just conform so as to avoid further smacks."

    Result, then.

    Stop the bad behaviour asap, and move on.

    Don't waste in some cases *years* of a child's life going round in circles trying to stop it doing something bad by "explaining". Do what works fastest, move on, and let the child move on.

  • Comment number 569.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 568.

    Austria Cyprus Denmark Finland Germany Iceland Norway
    Sweden amongst others all ban smacking and have lower crime rates than UK...

    The US allows smacking - and look at their crime rates!

    I'm not saying thats the whole story but lets NOT link a lack of smacking to higher crime rates!

  • rate this

    Comment number 567.

    You should discipline a child in the same way as an adult, though keeping them our of the crimainal justice system. But I mean by loss of pocket money or privileges etc... Teaching kids that violence is acceptable to those waeker than you is disgusting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 566.

    I was beaten as a kid - not smacked, beaten. Belts, wooden spoons, fond memories of running like hell, screaming, while my father brandished a beating implement.

    Thing was, I deserved it, and can't think of a single instance in which I was just beaten for the sake of it. Eventually the fear of being beaten is enough to prevent transgression.

    These days I'm a highly self-disciplined entrepreneur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 565.

    Children need discipline and smacking a child doesn't make you some child beating ogre.

    It was a bad day when corporal punishment in schools was wonder schools are in such a state. Teachers don't teach anymore, their job is more about keeping an unruly mob in once place between the hours of 9 and 4

  • rate this

    Comment number 564.


    Haha, fail by me. My browser crashed & restored previous session which was meant to be this BBC article haha:

    Anyway, the initiation of violence on another citizen is against the law. Period. Children are among our most vulnerable citizens.
    Initiating violence is repugnant to a free society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 563.

    529.helo thar -'Any pediatrician or psychologist will tell you that smacking has a negative impact on a child.'

    Sure of that? How many do you know? I know a few who wouldn't agree with your statement.

    Young children are not adults, their needs are much simpler and they require unequivocal indications of what is expected/prohibited. They are also good at cause and effect....

  • rate this

    Comment number 562.

    457. Bastiat 1 Hour ago

    You didn't answer my question - what do you suggest I should have done? I'd sent her to bed and removed her laptop access - twice.

    She was hysterical, screaming until her throat was raw and ignoring her didn't stop it. The recognised remedy for hysteria is a slap - in this instance it was administered to her bottom. Leaving her to be sick would have been more cruel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 561.

    A child's behavioral problems that need to be corrected by physical punishment is a sign of original sin (negative and fallen desires) passed from parents to children. Those who say they have no sin, the truth is not in them (1 John 1-8.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 560.

    The NSPCC seems unable to distinguish between smacking a child and beating one. Its use of words tends to confirm this; e.g. substituting "hitting" for "smacking" makes more emotive impact, even though in this context they have very different meanings.

    Smacking is one tool among many in the parents' toolbox, each of which should be used when appropriate.

    I sense another case of redefinition...

  • rate this

    Comment number 559.

    546Mike Hill

    Children must be taught proper manners and right from wrong. If smacking a bottom repeatedly is neceesary to make the child understand, then so be it.
    If the child does not understand what's wanted of it smacking won't make it understand, but just conform so as to avoid further smacks

  • rate this

    Comment number 558.

    I have NEVER hit my daughter and she is good as gold and happy. My daughter used to hit and scratch other children, I applied some thought to the matter. I use intelligent non-violent ways to discipline her, they work much better. I never get angry and I never take revenge on her. I'm not a lefty either, I like boxing and motorcycling and tattoos. Please vote me down, you are still a bad parent.

  • Comment number 557.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 556.

    In Australia I see many (a majority) obnoxious, unruly, beligerent, selfish and disrespectful kids, that is the future here (of the world) because parents are too lazy to bother to discipline their children or correct them in any way and let them behave as they want as it is an effort for them to do so. A lot of these kids deserve a smack and this would have taught them some respect for others!

  • rate this

    Comment number 555.

    I find it funny all those preaching that smacking teaches violence. Ok - but what does all the crazy TV film and console games market teach them? And another thing - how do you teach your kid that if he/she really gets someones goat up by whatever means - they are likely to get a good smack in the mouth? It teaches them boundaries and when to learn to stop if nothing else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 554.

    No wonder we're bringing up a nation of fat wimps!

    Too much negotiation and not enough discipline.

  • rate this

    Comment number 553.

    I disagree with smacking children, or animals. I could be pursueded to overcome my beleifs for one time though, and what I'd say is actually the one thing Chris Grayling and the other Con party Toffs need is a blxxdy good smacking on their spoilt, indulged, and therefore arrogant behinds. You cannot understand the real world when you've been as spoilt as them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 552.

    So what does a 'Spartan but humane' prison look like?
    No telly?
    Earned telly?
    What programmes?
    What about books? magazines? newspapers? pencils and paper? phones? radio?
    What is 'Spartan but humane' food? heating? bedding? washing and toileting arrangements?
    Any smacking? If not, why not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    As a primary school teacher I deal with behaviour issues every working day.
    I have never had to resort to physical abuse of a child. I am grateful that I am able to control myself and model to the children how they should behave.

    Children in my class make mistakes - but none so great as to warrant physical abuse. I make sure that violence is not a lesson that they learn from me.


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