Welsh Govt admits 1,000s of parents will be caught under smacking ban
• 2,740 parents liable to prosecution for smacking
• Police reports related to smacking will double
• Cost of bespoke ‘diversion scheme’ estimated to be over 400K
A Welsh Government letter suggests that thousands of parents across Wales will be caught under its controversial legislation to remove the defence of reasonable chastisement and make parental smacking a criminal offence.
The letter, from Children’s Minister Julie Morgan to Lynne Neagle, Chair of the Children Young People & Education Committee, predicts that 548 people a year will be investigated for smacking and sent to a “diversion scheme” following the removal of the reasonable chastisement defence – a total of 2,740 people in the first five years.
Whilst the letter implies that parents who smack will not face prosecution, there is nothing on the face of the Government’s Bill to guarantee this. The 548 people a year mentioned in the letter would each be liable to prosecution for smacking under the terms of the current Bill.
The shocking prediction is based on official data by the Police Liaison Unit (PLU) which shows that in 2017-18 there were 274 police reports across Wales involving reasonable chastisement. The Government expects reports of smacking to double in the wake of a ban, in line with what happened in New Zealand.
Ministers will set aside £35,000 for the development of a bespoke ‘diversion scheme’ which would re-educate parents who have smacked their children on Government-approved methods of discipline. The operation of this, at £150 per head, is estimated to cost £82,200 in the first year (£150 x 548), and £411,000 over five years (£150 x 2740).
Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, commented: “The content of this letter paints an Orwellian picture of Wales in the coming years. A Wales where thousands of parents are dragged into Government re-education classes for having the temerity to use light physical discipline like a tap on the hand with their children. This is not a Wales that most people want to live in. Parents should have support and encouragement as they raise their children, not patronising lessons on discipline at great cost to the taxpayer.
“The letter implies that there will be a presumption against prosecution and most people caught by the ban will be sent to a diversion scheme. However, it is not clear that this would be the case following the removal of the reasonable chastisement defence. Under the Government’s plans, smacking would be treated as assault by social workers, the police and the courts. Parents will be investigated and they will be prosecuted. It remains to be seen just how many loving families will face this ordeal.
Earlier this year, another letter from Mrs Morgan implied that thousands of 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.
It 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).
However, in the latest letter, Mrs Morgan claims that the Government’s smacking Bill will have no “appreciable impact on the disclosure of ‘non-conviction’ information”.
Jamie concluded: “These plans are becoming more dystopian by the second. AMs should think long and hard about the prospect of a smacking ban over the summer months and oppose it when it comes to be debated in September. There is still time for this unnecessary, illiberal and expensive legislation to be canned.”
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.
The letter from Julie Morgan states: “To provide the rough costs below, we have estimated that approximately 548 individuals may be directed to a diversion scheme per annum. This is based on an assumption that the estimated figure of 274 cases the police currently investigate at the reasonable punishment level, set out in annex 7 to the Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill, will increase by 100% after the Bill comes into force.
“Paragraphs 8.34 to 8.36 of the Explanatory Memorandum explain the differences between Wales and New Zealand which might have an effect on the rates of physical punishment of children; however, this data gives us the best estimates possible in the current circumstances.
“The following options give an initial estimate of potential annual costs depending on which option, if any, is selected:
• £8,000 for 2,500 copies each of 3 bilingual (English and Welsh) booklets appropriate for different age ranges and translated into 10 community languages;
• £118,000 for a half day group based course; and
• £45,000 for individuals to access an existing evidence-based on-line parenting course.