Call to scrap law allowing parents to hit their children

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Children’s campaigners vow to change “justifiable assault” law

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13th January 2015 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A coalition of over 100 charities and individuals has called for an end to a law which allows parents and carers to hit their children.

The Putting the Baby IN the Bathwater group says current legislation, contained in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003, allowing parents to justify hitting their children has to be scrapped.

They argue it leaves Scotland well behind most of Europe and makes a mockery of the Scottish Government’s ambition to make Scotland the best place to grow up.

Launched in autumn 2013, the coalition, which includes major organisations such as Aberlour, Barnardo’s and NSPCC Scotland, has revealed changing the law will be one of its top priorities for 2015.

Having successfully campaigned last year to make amendments to the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the coalition, which focuses exclusively on preventing harm to children and babies up to preschool age, wants to use the criminal justice (Scotland) bill – currently at stage two – to achieve its goal.

We believe there is no such thing as a justifiable assault upon a baby by an adult

Currently, the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act, makes it illegal in Scotland to punish children by shaking them, hitting them on the head or using a belt, cane, slipper, wooden spoon or other implement but it is legal for adults to use other means of physical punishment on children if it can be shown to be “justifiable”.

The coalition's position is that no assault on a baby or child is justifiable.

Speaking at the launch of the coalition’s first annual report, Social Justice Begins With Babies, Alison Todd, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “This coming year offers hope that the “justifiable assault” of children will be consigned to history where it deserves to be.

“We believe there is no such thing as a justifiable assault upon a baby by an adult.

“We will do our best to take the opportunity the criminal justice bill offers us to bring Scotland into line with most of Europe.”

Elsewhere, over the next year the focus of the coalition will remain on the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

The report states the coalition will help public bodies to prepare to deliver extra help to mothers, fathers and carers whose children are at risk of eventually becoming looked after, and assist in the preparation of 500 new early years health visitors announced by the Scottish Government.

It continues: “Our coalition is committed to staying together for the long haul. We are ready, willing and able to advise and assist Scottish public bodies at the national, regional and local levels.

“We know that no single law exists in isolation, or can change our society, singlehanded. But, by acting as a critical friend of the public sector, we will seek to ensure that whatever positive outcomes the Children and Young People Act could accomplish will, in fact, be accomplished.”

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s commissioner for children and young people and a signatory of the report, added: “The Children and Young People Act was an important step but we now have an opportunity to influence further changes to ensure that the Act’s good intentions become reality and by doing so, further improve the long term outcomes for our children in Scotland.”