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Smacking children becomes illegal in Wales

The physical punishment of children in Wales has become illegal, the Welsh government has announced.

Under the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 all types of physical punishment, such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking, are illegal. The new law will apply to everybody in Wales, including visitors, from 21 March 2022.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Today is a historic moment for children and their rights in Wales as we make physically punishing children a thing of the past. I have campaigned to make physical punishment illegal for more than 20 years. I am thrilled that from today children finally have the same protection from assault as adults.

“The law is now clear - easier for children, parents, professionals and the public to understand. Physical punishment is illegal in Wales and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

“We want to protect children and their rights and this law will add to the fantastic work we are doing to make sure all children in Wales have the best start in life and to live the lives they want to live,” she added.

The landmark legislation removes the archaic 160-year-old legal defence and provides children the same protection from assault as adults meaning Wales joins more than 60 nations across the world to end the physical punishment of children.

The abolition of reasonable chastisement in Wales comes 16 months after the law was changed in Scotland.

A YouGov poll of almost 3,000 over 18s for the NSPCC found that 68% of adults think physically disciplining a child, for example by smacking, isn't acceptable.

On the day the “reasonable chastisement” defence is abolished in Wales, almost two-thirds (64%) said it’s time to change the law in England and give children the same protection against assault as adults.

The NSPCC is now calling on the government to follow suit in England and end the legal exception that currently allows parents and carers to use a defence of “reasonable punishment” after striking a child.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “Today is a landmark moment for children in Wales. They’re some of the most vulnerable members of our society and deserve more, not less, protection from violence than adults.

“The NSPCC has long campaigned to remove this outdated defence and we’re pleased that children in Wales, Scotland and Jersey now have equal protection from assault.

“Public attitudes to physical punishment are changing and the law needs to follow suit. Westminster now needs to follow its neighbours and tackle this legal anomaly,” he added.

The poll for the NSPCC also revealed a lack of clarity across England about what parents and carers currently can and cannot do when disciplining their children. More than half (58%) thought it was illegal to physically punish a child, 22% didn't know and only 20% knew that it’s still legal.

Lynn Perry, Barnardo’s CEO, said: “Barnardo’s frontline workers say that eliminating physical punishment brings significant benefits to families and helps to create a safe and nurturing environment for children. The NSPCC’s new polling confirms that a majority of the public recognise this too.

“For all these reasons we support the call to make physical punishment of children illegal across the UK to ensure they have the same protection as those in Scotland and Wales,” she concluded.

WillisPalmer’s Blog on Smacking following the introduction of the ban on smacking in Scotland in 2020

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