Decent parents will be criminalised because virtue-signalling politicians refuse to trust them, says Be Reasonable
• Consultation responses show huge opposition to smacking ban
• First Minister and Children’s minister admitted decent parents will be prosecuted
• Recent report from Wales Centre for Public Policy offers no case for criminalising parents who reasonably chastise their children
• Public Health Wales confirms smacking to be treated the same as abuse
• Doctors and nurses who smack will be reported to police
• Analysis of law in New Zealand shows how parents have been criminalised
• Not a single case of a parent using reasonable chastisement defence in a Welsh court since 2009
Responding to the news that the Welsh Government are planning to press on with their proposals to outlaw smacking by removing the legal defence of reasonable chastisement, Lowri Turner, spokesmum for the Be Reasonable Campaign said:
“This is extremely worrying news. The consultation shows a huge amount of opposition to a smacking ban, and that’s even without it asking the most important question of all – ‘should parental smacking be a criminal offence?’ When we asked that question 76% said no.
“You can see that when respondents were asked about issues the consultation didn’t address, two-thirds of responses opposed changing the law on reasonable chastisement.
“Our virtue-signalling politicians need to listen to this. They have repeatedly claimed that this measure will not criminalise parents but when actually asked outright both the First Minister and the Children’s Minister admitted decent parents can expect to be prosecuted.
“The truth is out and we should not be surprised – the same promises were made in New Zealand and parents there were still hauled through the courts.
“But we don’t have to look to the other side of the world for the evidence. Former Children’s Minister Leighton Andrews said it himself. Changing the law in this way would not only criminalise smacking but any physical contact ‘of a child in Wales by a parent for the purpose of administering discipline’.
“The example he gave was so frightening because it was true: ‘A parent who forcibly lifts a misbehaving child would be guilty of battery’.
“At the same time, the Welsh Government has failed to demonstrate how this measure will improve child welfare. It needs to allow time for proper and independent scrutiny of the consultation results, which are very close and hours after this announcement have only just been made available to members of the public. Despite promises by the Government to engage in a meaningful dialogue with all concerned groups, no advance warning was given to Be Reasonable and the report is snuck out during the holiday season.
“The report it got the Wales Centre for Public Policy to produce said that a mild smack from a loving parent was an effective form of discipline – as effective, if not more so, than other forms of chastisement. It certainly made no case for criminalising parents who smack.
“How are parents supposed to trust this Government when it clearly doesn’t trust them?”
Freedom of information requests made by the Be Reasonable campaign show that NHS doctors and nurses will be treated as child abusers if they are suspected of smacking their children. They will face suspension from their jobs and criminal investigation.
The FoIs asked what impact banning smacking would have on the NHS and its staff. Cwm Taf University Board, stated: “It is already a statutory duty to report child protection concerns to the Local Authority and if the defence of reasonable chastisement is removed, smacking will become one of those concerns.”
It continued: “All allegations of abuse or neglect are investigated by the Local Authority and the Police.”
While Public Health Wales says: “staff are aware of their duty to report suspected abuse of a child to the police or social services”.
Pressed specifically about how changing the law will affect its staff Cwm Taf University Health Board replied that a complaint about a staff member “would be dealt with in the same way as any other complaint of abuse / neglect made against a staff member using the Safeguarding Board policies and procedures.”
The FoIs followed the alarming findings of a report on smacking from New Zealand, which concluded that banning smacking had criminalised parents. It found claims made by politicians in 2007 who said changing the rules would not criminalise “good parents” were “inconsistent” with the effect and application of the law.
The report also documented some of the hundreds of cases of parents being arrested and prosecuted following a similar change in the law to the one being proposed in Wales.
A separate FoI request to the Crown Prosecution Service revealed that between 2009 and the end of 2017 there were “no cases” in Wales of parents citing “reasonable chastisement” as a legal defence.
Lowri Turner concluded: “We have already seen the First Minister confirm at a public meeting say that he smacked his own children and it did them no harm, yet he seems to want to criminalise parents for acting in the same way. While one of his former children’s minister said that even the action of picking up a screaming toddler who is having a tantrum off the floor of a shop and placing them in a trolley, could be seen as common assault if the law is changed.
“Politicians should not set out to demonise parents. This plan lacks any commonsense – banning smacking is just more politically correct driven nonsense. This is why an overwhelming majority of countries around the world allow reasonable chastisement.”
For media inquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07979 016 2225.
Notes to Editors:
The Be Reasonable campaign is a grassroots campaign of parents and supportive groups with a single goal: to discourage the Welsh Government from pursuing its pledge to outlaw reasonable chastisement of children by their parents.
Click here for the report by New Zealand report by public law specialists Chen Palmer, dated 17 January 2018.
Click here for the Cwm Taf University Health Board Freedom of Information Request, dated 20 February 2018
Click here for the Public Health Wales Freedom of Information Request, dated 27 February 2018
In January 2015, former Children’s Minister Leighton Andrews told the Welsh Assembly:
“The effect of amendments 46 to 67 is not only to criminalise smacking, but also any other touching of a child in Wales by a parent for the purpose of administering discipline. The offence of a battery is committed where a person intentionally or recklessly inflicts unlawful violence on another. Any touching of another person, however slight, may amount to a battery. For example, a parent who forcibly lifts a misbehaving child would be guilty of battery.”
Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee, 22 January 2015, http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/documents/s36001/22%20January%202015.pdf