Together supports call for equal protection from violence for children

Date: 16th February 2016
Category: Equal protection from violence

Together has supported a letter to the Scotsman following an article on 13th February 2016, regarding the physical punishment of children. The article referred to questions asked of the Scottish Government by Alison McInnes MSP, which were answered on 10th Feburary by Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP.

Questions and Answers

Alison McInnes MSP raised the 'Equally Protected? A Review of the evidence on the physical punishment of children' report and asked the Scottish Government to respond.

Ms. McInnes also asked the Scottish Government for its position regarding:

  • Whether children should have the same level of legal protection from violence as adults;
  • Removing the defence of reasonable chastisement and prohibiting the physical punishment of children;
  • Whether the physical punishment of children (a) represents a violation of their human rights, (b) damages their wellbeing, (c) risks escalating into physical abuse and other forms of maltreatment and (d) can lead to the development of (i) aggression, (ii) antisocial behaviour, (iii) depression and (iv) anxiety that can have an effect through to adulthood.

The Minister for Children and Young People Aileen Campbell MSP welcomed the Equally Protected report and stated that the government has noted a number of its conclusions. The Minister agreed that the physical punishment of children in any form can damage their wellbeing and is likely to be detrimental either physically or emotionally.

The Minister stated that the Scottish Government will continue to keep all legislation designed to protect children from violence under review, recognising that in many cases it is necessary to have 'specific provision to protect children from violence.'

The Minister went on to say:

"The Scottish Government recognises that there are differing views on whether to change the law on physical punishment of children. As we would do with any proposal to change the law, we would want to consult widely. The Scottish Government continues to work with Children 1st and other partners on this important issue. We also wish to learn from the experience of other countries that have legislated to prohibit the physical punishment of children, such as Sweden, Ireland and New Zealand."

Article in the media

An article was published in the Scotsman following the Questions and Answers, titled 'Minister Warns Smacking Damages Children's Long Term Wellbeing.'

Letter in response

A letter was sent to the Editor of the Scotsman on Tuesday 17th February 2016 in response to the above article, encouraging the Minister to continue to listen intently to what the evidence is telling us about how physical punishment impacts on children, and act accordingly to ensure that our children are equally protected from violence before the law.

The letter also refers to comments submitted to the Scotsman by Dr. Lucy Reynolds, which reflect on her practical experience as a paediatrician and the clear evidence that physical punishment of children is a real, live issue for those working with children and families across Scotland.

Together supported the letter alongside a number of children's organisations, the Children's Commissioner and representatives from the Scottish Police Federation, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Social Work Scotland.

The letter clearly states: "Any legal change would not be to create a new offence but would instead be to remove a legal defence, thereby offering children and adults the same protection from assault."

The letter was subsequently referred to by the Scotsman, see here.

Furthering children's rights

Despite recommendations during the last UK examination by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and international calls to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment, children continue to have less protection from violence than adults.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) requires UK governments to protect children from all forms of violence, abuse and neglect (Articles 19 and 37(a)).

Key opportunities have been missed to give children equal protection and the provision of "justifiable assault" remains in Scots law. Together continues to recommend that the Scottish Government repeals the defence of "justifiable assault"with immediate effect.