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Smacking Ban: Have Your Say!

A major new campaign's being launched today to halt plans to ban smacking by parents in Wales.

The nationwide awareness campaign will be launched by Be Reasonable, a grassroots organisation, which brings together parents and family groups who oppose the ban.  
 
It warns that introducing this  piece of legislation risks criminalising hundreds of thousands of ordinary parents by removing the defence of reasonable chastisement.
 
It's calling on Assembly Members to oppose plans to introduce the legislation, which is expected to be announced by the Welsh Government following a lengthy consultation.
 
Our reporter Emma Grant has been speaking to Lowri Turner, a spokesmum for Be Reasonable.


 
 

 Lowri Turner, a spokesmum for the Be Reasonable campaign, says: "The people calling for this change are using hysterical and manipulative language. 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."
 
"Our campaign's research shows that 85 per cent of Welsh adults were smacked as children and nearly 70 per cent agree that it's sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child. 
 
"Campaigners for a ban know that the public is against them and these new findings confirm that - the move is widely seen as an unwanted intrusion by the State."
 
The ComRes poll of more than 1,000 Welsh adults found three quarters of those questioned thought the ban would not help protect vulnerable children. 
 
Asked to consider the statement, 'A ban on smacking would likely criminalise reasonable parents while doing little to stop bad parents from abusing children', 74 per cent agreed, with just one in eight, (12 per cent) disagreeing.
 
It found a similar number opposed making smacking a criminal offence. Asked whether or not parental smacking of children should be a criminal offence just one in ten (11 per cent) said it should, with three quarters (76 per cent) saying it should not. 
 
More than seven in ten (72 per cent) agreed with the statement, I support laws against child abuse, but smacking is not child abuse.
 
In 2015 the then Children's Minister Leighton Andrews said removing the reasonable chastisement defence would not only criminalise smacking but also any other physical contact with a child by a parent in Wales for the purpose of administering discipline. Even the lightest touch of another person, he said, could amount to battery and gave as an example a parent who forcibly lifts their misbehaving child.
 
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociology and social policy expert from Swansea University, will warn that removing the defence of reasonable chastisement from legislation could open the floodgates to thousands of minor incidents being reported to the police and social services - overwhelming already stretched services. 
 
This is a view shared by the public, with nearly eight in ten (77 per cent) expressing concern a smacking ban might flood police and social workers with trivial cases, which would mean they struggle to stop genuine abuse, while just one in eight (12 per cent) disagreed.
 
Dr Frawley commented: "For some reason parenting is now seen as the root of all society's problems. There's already a huge amount of pressure on parents and they don't need the added fear of being separated from their children because someone in the Government happens not to like the way they bring them up.
 
"Parents are increasingly the target of intervention because of this misguided belief that only the so-called professionals can do the job - using a load of performance indicators. This trashes the messy, joyful, wonderful nature of family life and makes it subject to state surveillance.
 
"The Welsh Government needs to resist the temptation to interfere in how parents choose to raise their children. Changing the law is a gross interference in family life and it's entirely unnecessary because the law already protects children from abuse.

"Removing the common sense reasonable chastisement defence will see the floodgates opened to hundreds, maybe thousands of new complaints to the police and social services. Inevitably this will distract them from actual cases of abuse with potentially terrible consequences."
 
Colin Harris, who practised as a solicitor for 45 years, including almost 30 years on the Law Society children's panel, commented: "If smacking becomes a criminal offence, what happens to the family after the child has given evidence in Court and the mother is convicted and punished? Do they just return home as if nothing has happened? Who will pick up the pieces after such trauma?
 
"The relationship between a parent and their child is unique, and comes with unique responsibilities. Politicians must not create a legal fiction by treating ordinary parental discipline as if it was criminal assault. 
 
"In 30 years of working with dysfunctional families I have seen the harm that comes from lack of love, affection and affirmation. I've also seen the harm that comes from lack of patient reprimand when children behave badly. 
 
"Within the special context of the parent and child relationship, a parent may legitimately decide to use moderate, reasonable chastisement. The law has long respected this as part of the authority which parents have in relation to their own children. When parental authority is undermined, out-of-control children can grow into out-of-control adults, at great cost to them and to society.
 
"I practised criminal law for decades. Criminalising a smack given in love and as necessary parental discipline cannot be justified." 
 
First Minister Carwyn Jones first announced the proposals for a smacking ban in May 2016 when he set out his priorities for the first 100 days of the Welsh Government. He said: "we will take forward, on a cross-party basis, legislation that will remove the defence of reasonable chastisement."

In a statement on the 27th of June this year, Mr Jones said "there will be consultation over the next 12 months" and a Bill introduced in the Assembly year beginning Autumn 2018.

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