An abuse of power and strength—or a part of family life that the law has no right to intervene in?by Prospect Team / December 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
Yes: Susanna Rustin
The answer is yes. It might seem slippery to start with semantics, but one of the problems with this subject is the terminology, and specifically the idea that smacking is somehow distinct from hitting, thumping or punching.
In previous centuries, when corporal punishment was far more common, smacking or spanking were understood to be the gentler, domestic version of what might in other contexts be a beating, caning or flogging (the last prison flogging in the UK was in 1962). There may still be a small minority of parents who administer physical punishments in a planned way. But these days, when we talk about smacking, we’re mostly talking about mothers, fathers and carers losing their tempers and lashing out.
Anyone who has done this themselves (and I am sorry to say that I have), or read any number of memoirs or stories about growing up, will have noted the outrage and humiliation that such outbursts leave behind. Children know they are smaller and weaker than adults. Physically attacking them is an abuse of power and strength.
That it is still allowed in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (Scotland banned it in October) is a cruel anachronism of which I am certain that we will soon all be ashamed. We are already an outlier in Europe, where most countries have legislated against corporal punishment in line with Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, with its call for equal protection from assault.
And this is the key point. Assault is already illegal. Talk of a smacking ban is misleading because no one is proposing to create a new offence. All that needs to happen is for the defence of “reasonable punishment” in the Children Act 2004 to be stripped out. Then assaults on children would be treated in exactly the same way as assaults on anyone else. Honestly, how can it be justifiable, in the eyes of the law or anyone else, to physically attack or hurt someone smaller, when it isn’t to attack a grown-up?
No: Lucy Denyer