August 2003


Registered childminders banned from smacking children.

In May 2003,  the government reversed its decision of two years ago and announced that registered childminders (the equivalent of our licensed day-care providers) will be banned from 'smacking' children in their care, even if they have permission to do so from the child's parents.  The Times newspaper ran two articles (5 May 2003) entitled "End is in sight for punishment law of 1860" and "Childminders to be banned from hitting infants", in which it is predicted that the ban on childminder smacking moved a ban on smacking by parents 'a step closer'.  An editorial by The Observer newspaper (4 May 2003) recommended a ban on all striking of children, writing "It is time for an outright ban - hitting children is never right" (copied from Repeal 43 website


UK Government under increasing pressure to reform law allowing "reasonable chastisement"

The UK Government is under increasing pressure from the Council of Human Rights Mechanisms in Strasbourg to reform its law by removing the 'reasonable chastisement' defence, and give children equal protection under the law on assault.  The pressure is likely to become irresistible by the end of 2005.  The UK took on binding obligations when it ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter and there are powerful mechanisms to supervise compliance.  These are now pursuing the UK for its failure to reform the law allowing 'reasonable chastisement' of children.  Many other law reforms have been forced on this and previous governments by these human rights mechanisms (from Peter Newell).

Victoria Climbie case influences MPs to promote banning physical punishment

Victoria Climbie was a young child in Britain who was brutally neglected and killed by an aunt and  the aunt's boyfriend.  An inquiry into her death showed that abuse began with what her carers called 'little smacks'.  Lord Laming QC, who headed an inquiry into her death, told the Commons Health Select Committee that her case had made him realise that "we seem to take assaults on adults more seriously than we take assaults on children".

A report from the Health Select Committee said that smacking even in families should be made illegal to protect children from abuse.  The Committee has called the 'reasonable chastisement' that parents and carers use to defend actions of physical punishment on children as 'increasingly anomalous' saying the law as it currently stands hinders the prosecution of child abuse cases.

Parliamentary views

The Guardian Weekly of 3 July 2003 carried a short article: "No smacking ban" in which it is reported that David Hinchcliffe, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, is urging the Government to allow a free vote for a private member's bill to remove the legal concept of 'reasonable chastisement'.

A spokesman for Downing Street said that punishment should remain a matter of parental choice.  "The Government believes that most parents accept and understand that there is a clear and fundamental difference between discipline and abuse, and know where the line between them lies."