Politics

DOCTORS CALL FOR UK-WIDE BAN ON SMACKING CHILDREN AMID CONCERNS OVER VAGUE LAWS

DOCTORS CALL FOR UK-WIDE BAN ON SMACKING CHILDREN AMID CONCERNS OVER VAGUE LAWS
Politics

DOCTORS CALL FOR UK-WIDE BAN ON SMACKING CHILDREN AMID CONCERNS OVER VAGUE LAWS

DOCTORS CALL FOR UK-WIDE BAN ON SMACKING CHILDREN AMID CONCERNS OVER VAGUE LAWS

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) is urging the government to completely ban corporal punishment and the smacking of children in England and Northern Ireland. Full bans have already been put in place in Scotland and Wales and concerns have been raised that the current laws in England around physical punishment ‘are unjust and dangerously vague’.

Consultant Pediatrician Professor Andrew Rowland has put forth the argument that the “lack of legislative clarity can…add an extra layer of complexity when trying to identify cases of child abuse”. Rowland’s argument is that the ‘grey area’ in the law makes it difficult for both parents and professionals to interpret what constitutes child abuse. He added "there must be no grey areas when it comes to safeguarding children" and that clearer laws in England and Northern Ireland "will give…absolute clarity". One spokesperson for the Department for Education in England, agreed with Rowlands conclusion and stated by comprehensively banning corporal punishment “We are supporting teachers, social workers and all safeguarding professionals to spot the signs of abuse or neglect more quickly”.

Several other non medical professionals have joined the call for legal clarity and greater legal protections for minors such as NSPCC's Joanna Barrett, who stated children in England and N.Ireland "continue to be exposed to a legal loophole that can undermine their basic right to protection under the guise of 'reasonable chastisement'". 

Societal views on corporal punishment are rapidly evolving and whilst some communities argue that adults hitting children is always unacceptable, others maintain that parents should be allowed to decide how to discipline their children. 

Treasury minister Laura Trott is one such advocate that has argued that the current law is sufficient and as it stands allows for parents to have control over how they discipline their children whilst also making clear that the abuse of children is “completely unacceptable” . When asked about these concerns Trott stated that the law is “very clearly set out in the Children Act, but it is for parents to discipline their children.”

 

Another critic Simon Calvert, from the Be Reasonable Campaign, claimed calls for a law change "are motivated by ideology, not by clinical evidence" and urged government representatives to reject them. Calvert added that "The current law strongly prohibits all violence against children, while protecting parents from prosecution for innocent and harmless parenting decisions”.

The RCPCH are calling on political parties to “make meaningful commitments on this important children’s rights issue” ahead of the general election; it’s not yet clear if any amendments will be implemented.

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