The Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, is under serious pressure to outlaw smacking of children in the country.
The pressure is coming on the heels of moves by Welsh politicians to criminalise corporal punishment of children, which has every likelihood of going through and come into effect by the end of the year in both Wales and Scotland, according to multiple media reports.
Currently the English law permits slapping children.
A three-month consultation was launched in Wales on a law which would remove the longstanding legal defence for parents which says they can use ‘reasonable’ force to punish their children.
The Scottish Government has thrown its weight behind a similar move in Scotland.
In England Mrs May’s ministers continue to hold out against a chorus of complaints over the legal right to smack from pressure groups, charities and Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield, who two years ago joined a protest to the UN calling for a ban.
Parents in England have the right to administer ‘reasonable punishment’ to their children under Victorian laws last updated by Tony Blair’s government in 2004.
The current law says parents can use corporal punishment and cannot be convicted of common assault as long as they do no physical or mental harm – usually taken to mean they must not cause bruising or any other injury.
Advocates of the right to smack accuse campaigners for a ban of making false comparisons between parental discipline and child abuse. They also warn that any law against smacking would be an intrusion into family life that could be used to criminalise ordinary loving parents.
There are signs that the rights of parents in England are already under pressure in civil Family Courts. In one case late last year two parents described as ‘loving and caring’ by a judge lost their children to adoption after a plank of the case against their right to keep their children was that they used smacking to punish them.