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Monday, 17 July 2017

Children's commissioner warns Scottish stance on smacking is untenable

Written by The Press Association

Scotland's position on smacking children is "untenable in international human rights terms", the country's new children's commissioner has said.

Bruce Adamson said legally allowing parents to smack their children puts Scotland at odds with the law in the majority of Europe.

Current legislation in Scotland enables parents to use a defence of justifiable assault for hitting their children.

Mr Adamson told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "There are some things where Scotland is doing very, very well and there are some things that are absolutely shocking, where Scotland is coming last in the world.

"We really are coming last in this now.

"Almost every country in wider Europe is committed to this change and we still in Scotland say that it's okay for a parent or carer to assault a child for the purpose of physical punishment, and that that can be justified, which is just untenable in international human rights terms.

"And I really think it really goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.

"So it is a very strange position we are in, where the government isn't supporting the change in the law at this stage, despite consistent international condemnation."

He also criticised the current age of criminal responsibility in Scotland which is the lowest in Europe at eight, saying current Scottish Government plans to raise it to 12 do not go far enough.

He said: "At eight, the idea that a child who is involved in behaviour that maybe harms someone else in quite a major way the idea that there is a criminal response to that, they should be held criminally responsible rather than their behaviour being addressed in a welfare-type model is idea is very very strange."

He highlighted the United Nations setting out 12 as the minimum starting point a decade ago and said in Scotland the discussion should be on where between 12 and 18 the age is set.

Mr Adamson takes over the commissioner position from Tam Baillie, who campaigned for the Scottish Government to scrap the justifiable assault law.

Shortly before stepping down at the end of his term of office, he said Scotland was lagging behind "pariah states" such as Zimbabwe by failing to ban smacking children and is one of only five countries in Europe where it remains legal.

The Scottish Parliament is holding a consultation on Green MSP John Finnie's proposal to ban parents from smacking children.

The consultation closes in August, ahead of a planned Member's Bill on changing the law.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish government does not support physical punishment of children.

"We have no plans to introduce legislation in the area, but we will consider carefully the member's bill that we understand John Finnie intends to introduce.

"We continue to support positive parenting and we recognise that physical punishment can set children the wrong example and is not an effective way to teach children discipline."

The spokeswoman added that the government acknowledges some people support the age of criminal responsibility being higher than 12 but said the case for that age is "clear and compelling".

She said: "It aligns with our age of prosecution, and also reflects current presumptions and rights around maturity, representation and participation in the children's hearings system.

"It is this government that will deliver that important change by legislating next year."

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