John Finnie MSP introduces Member’s Bill to give children equal protection from assault

Date: 12th September 2018
Category: Equal protection from violence, Protection from abuse or neglect, Parental responsibilities


On Friday 6th September 2018, John Finnie, MSP, announced that the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill has been lodged and published in Scottish Parliament.

The Bill aims to remove the legal defence of "justifiable assault", bringing Scotland in line with UNCRC recommendations and with most other European countries. If the bill is passed, Scotland will join more than 50 other countries worldwide that have already committed to ensuring that children are protected from physical punishment.

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.

In 2017, John Finnie launched an open consultation, the results of which revealed almost 75 per cent in favour of the bill.

For many years, there have been widespread calls for children in Scotland to be given equal protection. At international level, the UN Committee – alongside very many other UN treaty bodies – has repeatedly condemned Scotland’s failure to protect children from physical punishment. In 2016, the UN Committee concluded that the UK (including Scotland) should “prohibit as a matter of priority all corporal punishment in the family, including through the repeal of all legal defences.”

Bruce Adamson, the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland, has welcomed this development, stating:

“We should never consider the assault of a child for the purposes of punishment to be justifiable. I commend John Finnie for introducing his Member’s Bill to remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is long overdue - allowing the assault of children goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.”