General Assembly votes to ban corporal punishment at home

The Kirk has voted to ban the beating of children in their own homes in Scotland to ensure they have the same protection against assault as adults.

The Kirk voted to ban the beating of children in their own homes. Picture: Andrew O'Brien

Commissioners attending the 2016 General Assembly in Edinburgh were told that while corporal punishment was no longer legal in schools, children under 16 did not have protection at home.

Currently, parents, and those exercising parental rights, have the defence of “justifiable assault” for hitting a child as part of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

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Delegates decided by 275 votes by 259 that corporal punishment of children must be recognised as a violent act and that violence is damaging to mental and physical health.

The Scottish Government is now being urged to amend the law to ensure that it is never acceptable to beat a child.

The decision was welcomed by the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the church and society council, who said children must not be subjected to any form of violence.

Rev Foster-Fulton said: “We now add the Church’s voice to many other organisations to call upon the Scottish Government to remove the defence of justifiable assault, granting children the same rights that every adult enjoys in this area.

“Bringing up children is one of the most challenging privileges any of us can face.

“But in performing this privilege we must not negate the rights of the child.

“As parents, as a Church, as a society we want the best for our children.

“As a Church we will work with parents and others to support them in doing that.

During the debate, Deirdre Murray, an elder from West Kilbride, said that as a child she had had her “backside leathered up to the house” after joining a group of children on a fishing trip without telling her mother, who was frantic to find her daughter and younger brother missing.

“If I’d been put on the ­‘naughty step’, told I’d be kept in for a few days, would that lesson have got through to me?”

Mrs Murray also cast doubt that smacking could lead to mental harm and an increased risk of aggressive behaviour.

The Rev Hilda C Smith, from Lochgilphead, presbytery of Argyll, said the majority of the Kirk’s proposals could end up with “parents standing in the dock accused of assault” and an “at risk register with children on it”. She also said that she, like many of the delegates, were of a generation who had received a “skelp” on the legs but had not turned into someone who went around beating up and abusing others.

But the Rev Ellon Larson Davidson from Kippen/Norrieston in the presbytery of Stirling, said that children needed to be taught boundaries, but “we need to show them another way rather than raising our hands to them”.