Campaigners challenge ‘thoughtless’ move to criminalise smacking in Jersey
Jersey’s States Assembly has passed legislation to criminalise smacking, following the example of politicians in Scotland and Wales.
This afternoon the Draft Children and Education (Amendment) (Jersey) Law to remove a defence of ‘reasonable corporal punishment’ was passed by 39 votes to 4 in a debate lasting just 20 minutes.
The ‘reasonable corporal punishment’ allows parents to use light physical discipline with their children. Removing it will leave parents and carers open to prosecution for smacking a child. The new law will come into force in April next year.
During the debate, one Senator, Sarah Ferguson, said she received lots of letters from constituents wishing to retain the defence. She commented that taking a parent to court has a much worse impact on a child than smacking.
Responding to the news Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, said:
“It’s disappointing that lawmakers in Jersey have voted to criminalise smacking. In doing this, they join a tiny number of jurisdictions who have chosen to make parental smacking a criminal offence – most countries have only made symbolic civil law changes.
“Instead of scrutinising the evidence for and against a smacking ban, or waiting to see the effects of a change in the law in Scotland, they have chosen to proceed with no thought at all about the consequences for families.
“I suspect that one of the main motivations for this change is a desire to appear modish and progressive. I don’t imagine families in Jersey will be concerned about that when the police are knocking on the door following a report of smacking.
“As with the Scottish and Welsh legislation, this move is thoughtless and excessive. It risks good parents being pursued and prosecuted. This won’t help them, it won’t help the authorities, and it won’t help children.”
Earlier this years, members of the States Assembly debated a proposal calling for smacking legislation to be tabled. 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.”
Ignoring these appeals, members voted by a margin of 38 to 3 for legislation to ban smacking, with 7 members absent from the vote.
For media enquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225.
Notes to Editors:
The Be Reasonable campaign is a grassroots coalition of parents, academics and politicians with a single goal: to discourage the Welsh Government from pursuing its pledge to make reasonable chastisement a criminal offence.