Ban smacking, children's tsar urges

Maggie Atkinson Ms Atkinson, who has two adult stepchildren, was appointed in 2009

Related Stories

Parents should be banned from smacking children, the Children's Commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson, has said.

She told the Independent the law gave pets and adults more rights to protection from violence than children.

There was a legal "loophole around the fact that you can physically chastise your child", she added.

She called for a total ban under which parents could face criminal action. But she said that actively campaigning for a ban would not be a priority.

Under current laws, mild smacking is allowed but any which causes visible bruising, grazes, scratches, swellings or cuts is not.

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 exist 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.

Ms Atkinson told the paper: "Personally, having been a teacher, and never having had an issue where I'd need to use physical punishment, I believe we should move to ban it.

"Because in law you are forbidden from striking another adult, and from physically chastising your pets, but somehow there is a loophole around the fact that you can physically chastise your child. It's counter-evidential."

She said it was "a moral issue" and "taken to its extreme, physical chastisement is actually physical abuse".

She had never understood "where you can draw the line between one and the other" and it was "better that it were not permitted", she added.

But she said her office would not be campaigning for a ban next year "because there's a lot of other things in the queue".

A government spokeswoman told the paper that, while ministers did not "condone violence towards children", they did not "wish to criminalise parents for issuing a mild smack".

The NSPCC has said evidence is building that smacking 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," a spokesman said.

'Middle-class legislators'

Start Quote

I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school”

End Quote Justice Secretary Chris Grayling

Earlier this year, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told the Mail on Sunday he smacked his own children when they were young and defended the right of parents to smack their children.

The Conservative minister, who has two grown-up children, told the paper: "You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me.

"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."

And last year, Labour MP David Lammy said parents should be allowed to smack their children without the fear of facing jail.

The MP for Tottenham told a Mumsnet webchat that politicians should spend less time telling parents what to do.

He said it was "too easy for middle-class legislators to be far removed from the realities of the typical single mum".


More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 1730.

    The difficulty we would have is policing this law. Hoving worked in Child protection for 18 years I have learned how to differentiate between what is child abuse, and what is inappropriate parenting., We know that smacking your children is not effective parenting, however if you criminalise smacking all parents are going to come under the child protection umbrella and this will cause problems

  • rate this

    Comment number 1725.

    I was smacked as a child (both at home and at school) and have smacked my own children. All four are now young adults, working, polite and considerate to other people. If a total ban is brought in rather than a line drawn then are we to cease verbal admonishment as well because it may constitute mental abuse? We're heading towards a nation of people who want rights but no responsibilty.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1720.

    how can someone who hasn't brought up children from a young age 24/7 make suggestions like this? Being a teacher doesn't compare with parenthood. No parent wants to smack but sometimes it's a short punishment, far less harmful than regular yelling. Abuse NO, but light smacks harms far less than suggested and my 3 teenage boys have confirmed that I've done a good job as parent, so get real Ms A.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1461.

    The idea that today's yobs are the way they are because they weren't smacked as children is ludicrous. Most seriously dysfunctional kids come from dysfunctional families.

    My wife and I raised our two children without smacking them. They are now teenagers who have respect for others and have never been in trouble. So how did we achieve that if smacking is such a vital part of raising a child?

  • rate this

    Comment number 1459.

    My grandmother had five children, her children had between them 16 children, they between them had 61 children. ALL were disciplined with a mild slap if they were very naughty. ALL have grown up to be normal adults.
    Is there evidence that a mild corrective slap does harm? If so i'd like to see it.


Comments 5 of 12


More UK stories



Try our new site and tell us what you think. Learn more
Take me there

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.