Chair: Dr Kristy Fenton
Vice Chair: Dr Eleri Murphy
A Royal College of Psychiatry in Wales comment on the introduction of a legislative proposal to remove the defence of reasonable punishment
It is currently against the law for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’ (section 58, Children Act 2004).
We welcome the introduction of a legislative proposal to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.
It won’t create a new criminal offence, but does remove a defence to the existing offence of common assault or battery.
Chair of the Faculty of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Professor Alka Ahuja said:
"The Royal College of Psychiatrists in Wales welcomes this consultation from Welsh Government.
Reasonable punishment has been heavily debated over recent years as more evidence is uncovered highlighting the damaging effects that such form of ‘parenting’ has on the child and indeed on their development into adulthood."
Responses and Publications
The National Assembly's Children, Young People and Education Committee undertook an inquiry on improving the emotional and mental health of children and young people in Wales.
This followed on from the Fourth Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee’s inquiry, ‘Report into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)’ which found that the level of CAMHS provision was not sufficient to meet the needs of children and young people in Wales.
Shortly before the conclusion of that inquiry, the then Minister for Health and Social Services announced a ‘root and branch review’ of CAMHS to ‘modernise and redesign the service for the future’.
The Committee’s inquiry considered whether the Government’s review of CAMHS – the ‘Together for Children and Young People Programme’ is on track.
The purpose of the Bill (PDF) is to abolish the common law defence of reasonable punishment so it is no longer available in Wales to parents or those acting in loco parentis as a defence to assault or battery against a child.
The defence currently applies in respect of both the criminal and civil law. Under the criminal law, it applies in respect of the common law offences of assault and battery; and under civil law, in respect of the tort of trespass against the person.
The Bill is intended to support children’s rights by prohibiting the use of physical punishment, through removal of this defence. The intended effect of the Bill, together with an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents, is to bring about a further reduction in the use and tolerance of the physical punishment of children in Wales.
Further detail about the Bill can be found in its accompanying Explanatory Memorandum (PDF).
The Welsh Government has also published a web page for the Bill which provides further information and details of the impact assessments undertaken.