Seven in 10 oppose Welsh Government’s smacking ban, official analysis finds

Press release from
01 August 2019

An official analysis, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly, reveals that seven in 10 (68 per cent) of individuals who submitted evidence as part of the pre-legislative consultation process oppose the smacking ban.

The Office for National Statistics looked at responses to the Children, Young People and Education Committee online consultation, held between April and May this year. It shows:

• A significant 650 responses to the call for views.
• 60 per cent of responses overall against a smacking ban.
• 68 per cent of responses by individuals against a smacking ban.

The Welsh Government’s Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill would remove the legal defence of reasonable chastisement and make smacking a criminal offence. A debate on the general principles of the Bill will take place in the Assembly on 17 September.

Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, commented: “The results of the consultation yet again confirm that this proposed change to the law, that will criminalise ordinary parents, is deeply unpopular with the Welsh public. Interestingly they chime with both the results of our polling and other independent surveys.”

“The Welsh Government’s own survey of 1,298 people, carried out as part of the #TalkParenting exercise, found nearly two thirds (64 per cent) think smacking shouldn’t be banned, while only 30 per cent think it should.”

“In Scotland, a similar consultation by the Equalities and Human Rights Committee found near 90 per cent opposition to a smacking ban amongst the public. Polling by this campaign and national newspapers also shows 70 per cent or higher opposition to anti-smacking laws. This should be a wakeup call for the Government and Assembly Members who are pursuing this legislation against the wishes of ordinary mums and dads across Wales.”

The results are a blow to the Welsh Government’s plans ahead of the publication of the Stage 1 Committee Report, expected on 2 August.

Last week the Be Reasonable Campaign highlighted the release of a letter from the Children’s Minister Julie Morgan to Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee, that predicts 548 people a year will be investigated for smacking and sent to a Government re-education or “diversion” scheme following the removal of the reasonable chastisement defence – a total of 2,740 people in the first five years.

The letter, which was published just before the Welsh Assembly went into recess, doubled the previous estimates from the police about the number of crimes and investigations they expected to see as a result of the change.

It provided further details on the cost of the scheme. In total, the re-education classes will cost £446,000 including £35,000 for the development of a bespoke smacking course. The Welsh Government has estimated that a smacking ban will cost £3.3million.

In June the Police Liaison Unit (PLU) predicted around 1,370 new smacking crimes could be recorded in the first five years if the reasonable chastisement defence is removed. Other official documents implied that thousands more parents could have their names recorded on the National Law Enforcement database following reports of smacking, potentially ‘blacklisting’ them from working with young people and vulnerable adults.

The Explanatory Memorandum said: “…The National Law Enforcement Database (LEDS) will be set up to replace both the existing Police National Database (PND) and Police National Computer (PNC). Currently, conviction information is held on the PNC, and records on non-conviction information (e.g. intelligence, non-statutory out of court disposals such as community resolutions) are held on the PND.”

It goes on: “…Removing the defence of reasonable punishment in Wales does not create a new offence; the offence of common assault already exists in common law across England and Wales, therefore it should be possible to report incidents of common assault against children, either as conviction information (e.g. if a caution has been accepted by the perpetrator) or as non-conviction information.”

Non-conviction information, or “intelligence”, includes allegations made against a person that did not result in any arrest being made, and concerns passed on to the police from other public bodies (i.e. schools or social services).

Mr Gillies continued: “This policy is in complete disarray. Its huge costs continues to grow, the numbers of loving parents who will be adversely affected have doubled in just a month, while the financial and resource impact on social services is still unknown. It’s simply unacceptable.”

“We renew our call on the Welsh Government to listen to the people of Wales and ditch this deeply unpopular policy. They should be looking at ways of helping ordinary loving parents, not threatening to criminalise them.”


For media enquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225.

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.

Data Science to analyse responses to the National Assembly for Wales Children, Young People and Education Committee’s consultation on the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill (Office for National Statistics):