Parties reject call for legal smacking ban
SCOTLAND'S four main political parties last night united in rejecting a call by Kathleen Marshall, the Children's Commissioner, for Holyrood to introduce an outright ban on parents smacking children.
Professor Marshall joined her fellow commissioners across the UK in demanding that parents should be prohibited by law from striking their children under any circumstances.
But last night politicians from across the political spectrum made it clear that the law established by Holyrood in 2002 - under which fathers and mothers can administer "justifiable chastisement" - would remain.
Prof Marshall argued that "any smack, slap or hit" was an "assault". She said something that would be classed as assault on an adult should also be regarded as an assault on a child.
She said the current legislation did not go far enough and added: "That's why I'm raising it again, because it's unfinished business.
"Currently in our law in Scotland we have got a defence of justifiable assault on a child.
"What the law is saying at the moment is, generally speaking, it is an offence to assault anyone, but where you have got children - the most vulnerable part of our community - that there are situations in which assault may be justifiable."
The commissioner said just as minor assaults on adults were not prosecuted, not every case where a child was smacked would be taken to court. However, her call was rejected by the main political parties.
Margaret Smith, a Lib Dem MSP, said: "The Scottish Parliament did not want to criminalise the vast majority of parents who do occasionally smack their children for whatever reason."
She added: "We do not want to pass legislation that puts the average loving parent into being criminalised."
Susan Deacon, a Labour MSP and former health minister, said that the parliament should be looking at how better to support parents, rather than debating the issue again.
She added: "I think the legal framework we have in place is a robust one, and one the vast majority of the public would recognise as a sensible one. The big issue here is how we support parents to do what is a very difficult and challenging job."
Margaret Mitchell, a Tory MSP, said: "We are trying to support parents in bringing up children. Reasonable chastisement is one of the tools they should have to do that."
An SNP spokesman said that his party broadly favoured retaining the law as it stands
A Scottish Executive spokeswoman said the public supported parents being able to physically chastise their children and that a ban would be "extremely difficult to enforce".
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