In most of the 58 countries which have ‘banned’ smacking, they have only used the civil law. This is often merely symbolic, has no enforcement mechanism or is simply not enforced in practice. But Wales is proposing to use the criminal law to make parental smacking a punishable offence.

The Welsh Government acknowledged in its own 2018 consultation paper on the smacking ban Bill that of the 53 countries which had ‘banned’ smacking up to that point only 4 were common law jurisdictions. It stated: “The other 49 are civil law jurisdictions with the basis of their legal system being so different to the UK’s it is not possible to draw any useful comparisons in the drafting of legislation.”

Removing the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ will extend the criminal law of assault to include smacking. This means it becomes a matter for the police, prosecutors and the courts. Parents convicted of smacking will get a criminal record.

Examples from around the world


The French approach simply requires marriage registrars to read a line discouraging parents from using “corporal punishment”. It has no enforcement provision.


In 2007, Spain brought forward an amendment on smacking to its Civil Code, which was “primarily educational” and carries no penalty.


The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child commended Hungary for legislating against smacking but said it “regrets that the prohibition is not implemented”.


Anti-smacking campaigners claim that Malta is one of the countries to have ‘banned’ smacking. However, in May 2019 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child pointed out that the Maltese Civil Code retains the concept of “reasonable chastisement”.


Bulgaria ‘banned’ smacking in 2000, but 14 years on the UN is “concerned that corporal punishment continues to be widely accepted in society as a means of disciplining children, and is not explicitly prohibited or sanctioned in legislation”.