Welsh government rules out smacking ban before 2016

The minister responsible for children has already ruled out any legislation during the lifetime of this assembly.

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The minister responsible for children in Wales has ruled out legislation to ban smacking during this assembly term.

Gwenda Thomas said the Welsh government was committed to stopping the physical punishment of children, but legislation should not be undertaken lightly.

Assembly members voted in favour of a call to change the law to stop parents smacking their children.

Wales' children's commissioner joined the call for legislation, saying the law should not condone smacking.

Mrs Thomas told AMs in the Senedd chamber that a large amount of preparatory work would be needed to change the law and ruled out any legislation in this assembly term, which ends in 2016.

But she said she was "committed to retaining the option to legislate at a future date if we can't achieve the significant change we seek through other means".

"I would be fearful of criminalising parents, especially our most vulnerable," she said.

A cross-party group of four AMs wanted the Welsh government to introduce legislation to outlaw smacking by removing the defence of "chastisement" for assaulting a child.

The intention was to remove the legal defence of "reasonable chastisement" or "reasonable punishment".

The motion - passed by 24 votes to 15 - is not binding on the government.

Members of all parties were allowed free votes, with ministers abstaining.

Start Quote

A change in legislation will help shift attitudes and behaviour relating to assaulting children - something which can't be done while the law condones smacking”

End Quote Keith Towler Children's Commissioner for Wales
'Interference'

One of the AMs proposing the motion, Labour's Julie Morgan, said she wanted the law to give children the same protection as adults.

"That is our priority, the goal isn't to criminalise parents," she said.

But her Conservative opponent Darren Millar said: "I firmly believe parents should have the right to chastise their children.

"I think there should be less interference in family life, not more."

Wales's children's commissioner has joined the call for a change in the law to stop parents smacking their children.

Children's Commissioner Keith Towler said physically punishing children does not work and there was "no such thing as a safe smack".

Mr Towler, who is appointed as an advocate to speak up for young people on issues concerning them, said: "Children should be entitled to the same level of protection as adults. There's no such thing as a safe smack."

'Support parents'

He added: "A change in legislation will help shift attitudes and behaviour relating to assaulting children - something which can't be done while the law condones smacking."

Des Mannion, head of service for NSPCC Cymru/Wales, said: "We welcome the Welsh assembly vote in favour of bringing forward legislation to provide children with the same legal protection from assault as adults.

"This is a real example of Wales leading the way in giving Welsh children the kind of protection that other children in the UK don't enjoy."

He said the current law was "ambiguous", adding: "We encourage the Welsh government to bring forward this legislation as soon as possible and continue its work to support parents by promoting positive, effective and non-violent methods of disciplining children."

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said it is the view of Welsh ministers that it is possible for the assembly to amend the criminal law and "end the availability of the defence of reasonable punishment for those cases where it still applies to an offence of assaulting a child".

But Welsh Affairs Committee chairman David Davies said the issue should be referred to the Supreme Court if AMs vote in favour of a ban.

We asked you for your views. Here are a selection.

Once again the Welsh government puts left wing posturing above the rights of their citizens to manage their own affairs.

John Brinkworth, Caerphilly,

So I'm in my local supermarket with a child throwing a tantrum. Is the supermarket going to provide a naughty step or time-out room for me to use? No, I don't think so. Children are not rational creatures and cannot be reasoned with;smacking is necessary sometimes.

Andrew Edgington, Stowmarket, UK,

I have never needed to do more than smack on the hand once to my oldest and not at all to my youngest however there may come a time when it is necessary as an absolute last resort. I was smacked by my dad when I was young but it was not often it was with good reason and it had the desired affect. My children respect me and they want to make me a proud parent. I think the problem with political correctness it has gone to far and this is just another nail in the coffin. Children have lost respect for their peers they use their knowledge of what they can get away with and push it to its limits. Smacking is different to hitting that is the key thing and it should only ever be after warnings and explanations and other things have been tried.

Diane Hambley, Cwmbran,

There are extremes to both sides of this argument which help neither case. The mistake is to believe smacking or not smacking is a black and white question when the real scrutiny should fall on how smacking is used. I smacked my well brought up young man of a son twice in his upbringing, once on the back of legs, once on the bottom. Being smacked probably didn't make him a better man but I do believe it stopped him becoming a worse one!

David Glover, Warrington,

Contrary to what Keith Towler says, 'smacking' a child and 'abusing' a child are not the same thing. I know smacking works because my parents, when necessary, smacked me. I also know it works because it acted as a deterrant - I didn't want to get smacked so I behaved! My parents loved me; they never hit me out of anger or lashed out physically in frustration. My heart goes out to anyone who was abused by a parent or any other authority figure - such behaviour is unacceptable.

James, Cardiff,

There is a huge difference between the occasional physical chastisement and child abuse. I don't understand how people cannot differentiate between the two. To ban smacking is preposterous. I had the occassional smack as a child and it's never done me any harm.

Charlotte Davies, Swansea,

When I was a little boy, I would play with my grandmother's electric hob. She caught me, and warned me that if I did it again that she would smack me. I played with it again when I thought she wasn't looking, and she smacked me.

Julian, Portsmouth,

We're not talking about a punch, or a slap across the face or anything that is malicious. A smack has the desired effect on a child. When I was younger a smack across the back of my legs, just once, would stop me from having the biggest of tantrums. I have a stable life, a home, a job. I have not turned into a rebellious delinquent because of a smack. indeed it was a form of discipline which we should be encouraging not outlawing!

Keiren David, Bridgend,

Children are not adults and it is exactly this sort of middleclass socialist in-home meddling that has lead to the increase in antisocial behaviour and people being arrested for taking photos of their children playing in the bath. There is a big difference between assaulting a child, which is already covered by the law and a smack on the leg which can stop a wild tantrum and gain focus and attention. Ones job as a parent is to raise a responsible adult, that will conduct themselves within the moral and social framework of society. Kids aren't born that way and as a society we need to stop asking children what they want and tell them what they have to do. The NSPCC have their hearts in the right place but down this path lies a culture of entitlement, rights without responsibilities and disruptive school children falsely accusing their teachers of all manner of abuse. Confusing smacking with assault is wrong and an intrusion on family life, not to mention completely unenforceable.

Jason Ellis, London,

I find it astonishing that people still believe that using violence against a child is an effective means of behaviour management. The people leaving comments, who say they want the right to strike a child, have the benefit of protection under the law from violence being used against them. Yet they would deny that right to those less able to protect themselves - their children. The idea that having been smacked as a child has "done me no harm" when it has left someone with a readiness to use violence against their own children speaks for itself. Surely we can do better than this. The prevailing social attitude is changing to recognise this; lets apply ourselves to do better for our children. This change should be welcomed and supported by loving parents.

Jan Godfrey, Cardiff,

Children should receive lots of love fun and discipline. Lot of fun and love. Spanking should be a first resort not last when tempers are frayed. We started spanking our boy at about 15 month old with a firm 'no!'. They are now 13 and 11 and we have never had any issues with them and people always compliment them on their behaviour. And neither does spanking breed violence, they dont thump the hell out of eachother other either, but there mates do who haven't been spanked! But all of this has to be put in the context of love and fun lots of it. Funny how people dont want parent to spank kids but they will be happy for them to eventually join the army and kill!

Ron Iveson,

The use of violence against children teaches them about violence and aclimatises them to violence later in life. Everybody will have a different viewpoint on where to draw the line between 'discipline' and abuse. It is difficult to argue that children should not be violent with eachother when an adult can be violent with a child for not following a parental request. Violence breeds violence.

Paul Evans, Yr Wyddgrug,,

If you teach the child it is ok to comunicate by violence, by resorting to it when your parenting skills fail you, your child will comunicate violently . Respect your child, do not pass on a legacy of violence. As it is illegal to hit adults it should ofcause be so with children.

Bente glastad, Bergen, Norway,

With the greatest respect to those well-meaning individuals trying to stop child abuse - surely you must understand that a "one size fits all" approach seldom works, and an outright ban would not only stop child abuse but also prevent a parent from issuing a well-balanced disciplinary smack when it is needed. Wanting to prevent child abuse is honorable, but this legislation would simply cause a greater problem for the majority of people by preventing them from disciplining their children to protect what are, thankfully, a minority of abused children for which legal protection is already in place.

James Dicks, Brownhills,

When the politicians, when the NSPCC, accept that they and not I have responsibility for how my children behave, they will have the right to tell me which natural parenting instincts I must not use. Until then, I have that right and responsibility. I will decide how my children learn the value of love, of trust, and of working together; and sadly, occasionally, the importance of authority and discipline, especially where safety is involved.

Chris, Hertfordshire,

I have two boys. I do not smack, which I accept is my choice. As someone who was a 'battered' child, I am totally against any form of physical violence against children. And thats what smacking is. My boys are 12 and 5 years old, they know what sort of behaviour is acceptable and what is not. I am always being complimented on how happy, polite and well behaved they are. They have the occasional disagreement with each other, which does not resort in any hitting etc. We have ground rules and we expect them to be followed. Punishments like no Ds, Wii etc does work.My husband and I very rarely shout and we lead by example, being respectful of each others opinions etc. I have friends who smack their children and I never force my views onto them.

Teressa, Lancashire,

It is disgraceful that as a nation we are still stuck with a Victorian attitude to children that allows adults to hit, thump or strike a child if a parent can satisfy a court that his or her act constituted "reasonable chastisement". In 8 European countries such behaviour is illegal. Any parent who believes that committing an act of violence against a child is anything more than bullying is deluded. It also teaches that it is acceptable behaviour to use violence against others to get what you want. I genuinely believe that there would be a national outcry if someone were caught on camera hitting a donkey, or a dog. Hitting a child in a supermarket is apparently acceptable behaviour in this country.

Garry Lockwood, London,

What the advocates of smacking are ignorant of (or choose to ignore) is that smacking has been prohibited in many European countries for years - without any noticeable disintegration of their societies. Having a clear-cut prohibition on smacking removes all the grey areas that are currently exploited by those who choose - needlessly - to punish their children through violence. I'm pleased that Wales is once again in the vanguard of attempts in these islands to promote civilised behaviour. In years to come smacking will be viewed as primitive and unsophisticated as smoking in pubs - remember that?

Wyn James, Bangor, Gwynedd,

The smacking of a child is a form of physical abuse whether people agree or not. The hitting of a child is a sort of parental failure where verbal chastisement would be more suitable. At least the Welsh Government is being pro active in trying to protect children from over zealous parents who use violence to subdue their off spring (violence breeds violence). The Tories in Westminster are just playing politics with the Assembly by attempting to throw a spanner into the legislative works by showing little old Wales that they're in charge really. David Davies do shut up and let Wales Govern itself!

Richard Lewis ap Davies, Swansea,

All this motion does is afford children the same protection as adults. Adults aren't the rational beings we like to think we are and regularly display negative behaviour, but we have laws stating it's not acceptable to resort to violence. I'm a single mum of a wonderful 13 year old who has never once been hit. It's not my right to hit someone smaller than me because they are learning social skills and behaviour. It is my duty as a parent to protect my child and nuture her to know right and wrong. It's not hard to discipline using positive parenting techniques and no hitting.

Vikki Butler, Swansea,

Again we see a sledgehammer approach by people more interested in being seen to take a stand than helping solve the problem. People will rebel against this legislation because it is pure "big brother" mentality (George Orwell not Channel 5). Why not instead introduce legislation forbidding the striking of children with any instrument or implement - less confusing, easier to enforce and more likley to gain wider public support

James, Edinburgh,

Let's distinguish between genuine child abuse and a timely smack, done in the context of a loving, calm, family framework! They are not the same thing! I was occasionally smacked as a child for any wild displays of anti-social behaviour which all children are prone to! I am now a fully participating non-criminal member of society. Surely those involved in the rioting this summer could have done with some more firm but loving boundaries put into place during their childhood, including the occasional smack when necessary!

Sophie Killingley, Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire,

Children respond in different ways, if one of my children is naughty a stern word is often enough however another one of my children would not take this seriously and a short smack is required to correct the behaviour as a stern word will not work. It really depends on the child and the situation depends on the situation. It is quite clear that some youths act in an anti social manner as they are well aware that whatever their actions they can pretty much get away with it. Perhaps some clear guidelines would be more approriate rather than banning what some parents see as an essential discipline tool.

Chris Jones, Wrexham,

The latest in dog training emphasizes positive reinforcement, trainers don't even use the word "no". Humans are even smarter than dogs. It's time we gave children the respect they deserve. Hitting children just creates anger and promotes the idea that "might makes right." Peace on earth starts with peace at home.

Therese Shellabargers, North Hollywood, CA,

As with many above here, I am in favour of retaining the ability of parents to use brief, contextual smacking as a form of admonishment. There are times when such an action is THE way to get a message across to an irrational 2 or 3 year old. This is NOT the same as a physical abuse of the child in any way shape or form. If I as an adult were about to touch something hot or run into the road, I would hope those that care for me would physically stop me from doing that - rather than engage in verbal admonishment that by it's nature would take too long in an emergency situation.

Lee Hind, Haverfordwest, Pembs,

Why is it that when any group come out with an anti-violence stance people just revert to calling them daft left-wingers. Can I jus remind everyone that this issue has support amongst all political parties in Wales!

Keith, Zurich,

If I am at a meeting at work - is it ok to lean over the desk and smack someone around the face cause they do something I dont like. Smacking is nothing more than lazy parenting from those who have neither the guile, patience or intellect to avoid having to use it. One thing is for certain you will pay - in a dimmution of the love from your child one day. I pity you.

Steve Daly, Sidcup, Kent,

I was smacked as a child but not often and only as a last resort. What I remember most was that after I had been allowed to think about what I had done, all was forgiven and forgotten. There is a universe of difference between loving chastisement and assault. I absolutely adore my parents 36 years on and am eternally grateful that they brought me up to have discipline and respect in all that I do.

James, Maidstone,

Best discipline I ever had as a kid was a smack. Unless I had a smack I wouldn't of stopped acting up and the thought of a smack stopped me from doing a lot of irresponsible things I was considering to do. If I knew that all my parents would do is shout at me or stick me on that pathetic thing called "the naughty step" if I was doing something wrong then I probably would of been a bank robber at the age of 5. This political correctness is getting ridiculous, and I can tell you now, whether this law passes or not, when I eventually have kids, I'll be smacking them if they misbehave no matter what.

Luke, Newport,

My father was a barrister and worked with children's charities. He always said that he supported 'smacking' children and that he smacked his own. What that involved was being physical smacked to his own point of exhaustion whenever he lost his temper, usually because he was stressed at work. I was so terrified of him I used to try to lock myself in the wardrobe in my bedroom or put the bed against the door with my back braced against it and my feet against the wall to stop him getting in as the room had no lock.. Yet as a barrister, he'd always have been able to argue that this was 'reasonable' chastisement. He always conducted himself impeccably when in public and as a 'reputable' citizen. It would have been hard to take meaningful action to protect me - I did tell the school and they didn't want to know because of his 'standing'. I wasn't allowed to have friends come home and had no relatives to turn to at all. If there had been a law preventing any form of smacking. I just know he'd have obeyed it and I'd have not been so terrorised by him. So well done Welsh Government for investigating ways to take a ban forward. Parents in a loving caring family make the effort to think of ways to secure the behaviour and values in their children that they want to without resorting to violence. Violence is never the answer.

Yvonne,

You cannot always reason with a young child. A quick tap on the back of the hand or leg is not necessarily punishment. If used appropriately it is love, training and nurturing. It is the kind of nurturing and training that ensures that a child listens when you say stop. It may be the kind of training that is needed in order to keep a child from danger. The Welsh Assembly need to reject this law change.

Tim, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan,

Good on you Keith, the work you do to safeguard childrens rights is fantastic. I cannot believe how many respondents are supporters of smacking their child. I agree that no smack is safe, and that there is no evidence to suggest that using violence to enforce behaviour is of any benefit. Physical enforcement can lead to resentment and a lack of respect herefore has no obvious benefit other than the parent getting out the frustrations they have from a loss of control. If you get caught smacking your dog, you may be unable to keep pets

Jonny Davies, Llanelli,

There is a difference with violence to children and displine. If child is kicking and screaming say in supermarket do you ignore so the child thinks this is the right thing todo or a quick tap to instill its wrong I say yes. If a child keeps going and touching the front of a gas fire is it wrong to tap them as a warning not to do it or continue to pull them away which then becomes a game, so for couple of seconds you turn away they touch a hot fire. What can you expect, my 5 year old nephew was told in school that no matter what he has done naughty or not if his parents hit him or tap him to let them know and police will be called and he toave any of the people involved in this motion got children them selves. I see nothing in using a tap or gentle smack as a warning for danger or if they are really naughty so show its wrong.ok great joy in telling his parents this.

David, Cardiff,

My son was bullied verbally and physically at school and they did noithing until he retaliated one day and hurt his tormentors, then he was the one that got suspended from school. These tormentors of his were never hit, their parents were teachers and didn't believe in smacking, and also didn't believe that their kids were thugs. Mine weren't angels and I did smack when they were younger, but they grew up knowing what was right and wrong and what was acceptable. My child cut his wrists and arms to pieces because children were allowed to get away without punishment. Don't impose this on parents until the state is willing to redress the balance with realistic punishments that fit the crime it will need to hand out to thug youths later in life.

Clive, Birmingham,

'No smacking is safe' - watchdog

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