Jersey smacking ban to come into force next month

A law banning parents from smacking their children is due to come into force in Jersey next month.

At the end of last year, the States Assembly – Jersey’s Parliament – voted by 38 votes to 3 to remove a defence of ‘reasonable corporal punishment’ from law.

This would bring Jersey in line with Scotland and Wales which voted to remove a similar defence in recent months.

When the Jersey law takes effect, all physical punishment by parents, no matter how light or trifling, will be a criminal offence.

Be Reasonable has warned that parents in Jersey who continue to smack their children after the change could be subjected to prosecution.

Commenting on the announcement, a spokesman for Be Reasonable said:

“It’s hugely disappointing that Jersey has chosen to follow in the footsteps of the Welsh and Scottish Governments in criminalising mild physical discipline. As we’ve warned over the past two years, removing this defence from the criminal law will lead to perfectly good parents coming into contact with the police, social workers and even the courts simply for smacking their child.

“The majority of people in the UK, and we would imagine Jersey, will see this change in the law as draconian, unnecessary and negative for family life. The current law in Jersey prohibits violence and abuse. The police and others should be left to focus on real, tragic cases rather than be forced to pursue loving mums and dads.”

In early 2019, members of the States Assembly debated the prospect of a smacking ban.

During the debate, Senator Sarah Ferguson, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, argued that: “It is not the business of the States to dictate every aspect of life.”

“Yes, we should protect those being mistreated or abused, which is not exclusive to youngsters; the elderly are equally vulnerable. But to impose political correctness on the population as a whole is rubbish.”

She added, “there is a great difference between just a quick sharp smack on the upper leg or behind, and a beating…I think this is just the Government deciding to be a parent and, I am sorry, it is not the role of Government to be a parent”.

Deputy Rowland Huelin also opposed a change in the law saying:

“The likelihood is [parents] are going to be reported by members of the public, either within the family unit or outside, and I think it is highly likely there will be increased burden on social services, diluting their efforts from those that really are in most need.”

“I fear that the problem with this is it will affect the majority of regular, decent, hard-working and loving families and not help the very small minority…all this signal will do is interfere with family life, intrude and mandate on how others should bring up children.

“Having children is the most rewarding, exhausting, expensive in my case, and ultimately fulfilling part of my life, a view shared by many others. We do not need it to be made any harder and certainly not add to the risks and woes of the most beautiful responsibility that can be bestowed.”

The new law will take affect after a final meeting of the Privy Council.

A spokesman for the Government of Jersey said:

“The Children and Education (Amendment) (Jersey) Law was adopted by the States Assembly on 10 December 2019. This law, which will prohibit the use of corporal punishment against children in all circumstances, will come into force shortly after it has been considered by the Privy Council. It is anticipated that the council will consider the law at its next meeting, in April.”