Equal Protection from assault, public consultation open

Date: 16th May 2017
Category: Equal protection from violence

John Finnie MSP has launched a consultation on a proposed Bill on Equal Protection for children and young people.

The Bill aims to remove the legal defence of "justifiable assault", bringing Scotland in line with UNCRC recommendations and with most other European countries.

The defence of 'justifiable assault' allows parents to physically punish their children as long as they do not hit them around the head, use an implement or shake them.

The existence of the defence means that children and young people currently have less protection from assault under Scots Law than any other group. The current legal defence of 'justifiable assault' against a child makes it more difficult to protect children from severe abuse by creating a blurred line about what is acceptable. Just as importantly it is at odds with what parents know about the importance of building strong healthy relationships to help their children thrive.

Evidence given by the 2015 publication Equally Protected? clearly indicated the harmful impact of physical punishment of children.

Key findings from the evidence include:

  • physical punishment is in decline in many countries, including the UK;
  • physical punishment is associated with increased childhood aggression and antisocial behaviour;
  • experiencing physical punishment is related to depressive symptoms and anxiety among children;
  • physical punishment carries a serious risk of escalation into abuse.
  • Download the full Equally Protected? report here.

Legal reform is long overdue and organisations including the Children and Young People's Commissioner for Scotland, Children 1st, the NSPCC and Barnardo's have been focussing their efforts on equal protection from assault for many years. The proposed Bill emphasises support for parents, the evidence relating to physical punishment and the cultural impact of equal protection from assault.

The consultation on the proposed Bill closes on August 4th 2017 and submissions from members of the public are welcomed. Please use the hashtag #equal protection when tweeting and the twitter handle @EquallyProtect for more information.