Smacking ban would criminalise parents, campaigners warn
Thousands of Welsh parents would be criminalised if a smacking ban is passed, campaigners have warned.
The Welsh Government wants to remove the legal defence for parents who use corporal punishment to discipline children.
But campaigners said removing the reasonable chastisement defence would leave “ordinary parents facing jail”.
The Welsh Government is due to consult on the plans in the next 12 months.
Now a group of parents, known as Be Reasonable Wales, have started a petition calling on the Welsh Government to scrap the plans.
Mother-of-one Lowri Turner said there was a difference between smacking and abuse and the move would paint ordinary parents as “no better than violent thugs and child abusers”.
She said: “They’re trying to make out that a gentle smack on the back of the legs from a loving mum is the same as beating up your kids.
“Does anyone seriously think that that sort of abuse is not already illegal?
“If the government can’t tell the difference then they shouldn’t be passing laws about it.”
The move would mean if an allegation of hitting a child is made against an adult, it would remove a defence for those who might argue they had not realised they had hit the child so hard.
Andy James, chairman of Children are Unbeatable, a campaign group in favour of a smacking ban, accused the group of “scaremongering”.
He said the law had been changed to give children the same protection against assault as adults in 52 countries and there was no evidence parents would be criminalised by the move.
“No-one has a right to hit another person, or to punish and control them,” he told BBC Radio Wales.
“Children should have the same protection from the law that we enjoy as adults.”
A poll of 1,000 people by ComRes on behalf of the campaign group shows 85% of Welsh adults were smacked as children and close to 70% agree that it is at times necessary to smack a naughty child.
A previous attempt to ban the smacking of children failed in the assembly in March 2015, when AMs voted against removing the defence of reasonable chastisement from the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Bill.
But Labour’s manifesto ahead of last year’s assembly election promised to “seek cross-party support for legislation to end the defence of reasonable punishment”.
The issue was also part of an agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru to install Carwyn Jones as First Minister last May – and the two parties made commitments over a possible smacking ban.
Calls to ban smacking of children in Wales were also backed by Archbishop of Wales Dr Barry Morgan and the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Prof Sally Holland.
Powers for the assembly to make laws on parental discipline will be devolved to Wales from Westminster under provisions in the Wales Act. Once enacted it will allow AMs to remove the defence.
The Welsh Government said it had made a “firm commitment to seek cross-party support” for legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.
A spokeswoman added: “We will consult fully on proposals, over the next 12 months, to ensure views are received from a wide range of people. We will work hard to ensure that our legislation makes life better for both parents and children.”