Campaigners challenge ‘thoughtless’ move to criminalise smacking in Jersey

• Lawmakers set to make smacking a criminal offence
• Proposal branded “thoughtless” and “excessive” by campaigners
• Arguments against a ban dismissed in previous debate

The Government of Jersey has tabled legislation to criminalise smacking, following the example of politicians in Scotland and Wales.

The Draft Children and Education (Amendment) (Jersey) Law would remove a defence of ‘reasonable corporal punishment’ which allows parents to use light physical discipline.

This would leave parents and carers open to prosecution for smacking a child.

The draft law will be debated in the States Assembly on 10 December and could be passed by the end of the year.

Responding to the news Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, said:

“It’s disappointing that lawmakers in Jersey want to mimic moves to criminalise smacking.

“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, the Government is keen to make the change now and could do so by the end of this year.

“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 for smacking. 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:

“I am absolutely clear any excessive bullying, physical violence, torture, undue suffering to children is abhorrent and should never, ever happen. I take that absolutely. But what we are talking about here is a quick slap…The best description I have come across for this is reasonable chastisement…if we rescind this law then it will be a criminal offence”.

He continued: “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.