Alex Cole-Hamilton hails law giving children equal protection from assault

Today is an important day in Scotland.

The law giving children equal protection from assault becomes law.

It’s always seemed very strange to me that if I were to slap a 6 foot 4 adult, I’d find myself on an assault charge, but it would be fine for me to slap a 3 foot 2 child. It’s a pretty gross abuse of power and people can retain the memories of these incidents for years after. They cast a very long shadow.

It’s an important step because it sets out very clearly that hitting anyone to make them submit to your will is an abuse of power that we will not tolerate.

And one of the strongest advocates of this measure is our own Alex Cole-Hamilton. I spent ten years trying to get that man into Holyrood for one major reason – because he would be a brilliant advocate for young people. And he has been. On the smacking issue, on campaigning for a much greater rise in the age of criminal responsibility than the SNP Government was prepared to implement, on calling for care leavers to be properly looked after and many other issues, he has been the young person’s best friend in the Scottish Parliament.

On today’s milestone, he said:

Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently demanded the so-called “justifiable assault” of children be brought to an end and we are delighted to see this change finally made today.

The abolition of this Victorian-sounding legal defence is long overdue. It is backed by countless studies and experts from the Children’s Commissioner to police officers, social workers, nurses, and children’s and parenting charities.

It sends a clear message about what kind of country we aspire to be. After defying the UN for years on this, the Scottish Government now need to stop ignoring other international human rights minimums such as setting the age of criminal responsibility at 14.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I think this law change in Scotland is a mistake.

    England gets it right with the law regarding “reasonable chastisement.” I used to donate regularly to the NSPCC, but stopped over 30 years ago because of their policy on banning parental corporal punishment in all circumstances.

  • 1) Let’s give credit where it’s due :

    BBC News Scotland today : ‘The smacking ban bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament by Scottish Greens MSP John Finnie, a former police officer, who won the support of the SNP, Labour and Lib Dems as well as his own party and many children’s charities.

    Mr Finnie said smacking teaches children that “might is right”, and that the ban would “send a strong message that violence is never acceptable in any setting”.

    2) As for Mr Mohammed Amin, who joined the Lib Dems after 36 years as a member of the Conservative Party, it seems that some things linger on.

  • I must say a word of support for Mohammed Amin’s stance. When I was about 4 years old, in 1942, my father was away soldiering, so that week in week out my mother and I were a family of two. I was old enough to understand the idea of obedience, and the reasons for it. If I repeatedly disobeyed a request and then the following command I was warned “If you do that again I shall smack you.” And if I did, she did.

    The smack would be with the hand on my hand, and it stung painfully and caused no injury. I did not enjoy the short-lived pain, and this was more to be avoided than resented. Hard feelings lasted five minutes on both sides. It was a bargain on both sides, it was kept, and it was , by and large, effective. I believe it is wrong to make that disciplinary chastisement an offence — two parties sticking to a formalised arrangement.

    At what age to start such a bargain, and what age to move on to other sanctions, that is tricky. But through that transitional age between baby and school, I believe it works well for both parties.

  • Sue Sutherland 8th Nov '20 - 1:00pm

    Should parents be allowed to inflict pain on their children? Should strong people be allowed to inflict pain on the weak? No of course they shouldn’t. I can’t leave the comments on this article looking as if we are the smacking party.
    My eldest child went through the terrible twos in a big way and I resorted to smacking her. Lots of parents did that 40 years ago. It was my failure not hers. Then I went to Mass (I was a Catholic in those days) at the beginning of Lent and the priest told us not to give up smoking or chocolate but the most useless thing we were doing in our lives. So I gave up smacking for Lent. It required a lot of strategic and tactical thinking to avoid situations of conflict but I managed to do it and I didn’t have to resort to violence again.
    If you smack your child but believe in peace and cooperative working you are raising your child to think the ultimate deterrent is violence, which is the source of many of the world’s problems that our party is seeking to solve.

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