Cole-Hamilton: Children must have equal protection from assault

Well, this will probably be a controversial one as the issue over whether parents should have the right to hit their children for some peculiar reason always causes a big argument in liberal circles. My own view has always been that there are no circumstances in which it is justifiable to hit a child and that there is always a better way. Having children grow up thinking that it’s fine to hit someone smaller and defenceless to get your own way really isn’t a good look. Some children will grow up emotionally scarred from the experience of what some people might think was moderate smacking. It does not make for an anxiety free life if you are constantly worried about stepping out of line in case you get another belting, especially if the goalposts keep moving. Every child deserves to feel safe in their own home and the fear of being hit isn’t a healthy one. It can destroy the trust between child and parent and lay the foundations for mental ill health. There are so many non violent ways of instilling discipline and consideration into children. Assault should have no place in that process.

Anyway, Scotland’s SNP government has announced that it will back legislation to ban such assaults on children. Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton, who used to work for a children’s charity and who persuaded Scottish Conference to back a ban on smacking, welcomed the move:

Scottish Liberal Democrats have regularly demanded the so-called “justifiable assault” of children be brought to an end. It is a source of national shame that this defence still exists and it is welcome that SNP ministers will now get with the times and abolish it.

Scotland is one of only a handful of European countries that have yet to move to abolish this archaic defence in its entirety.

Children should not have less right to protection from violence than adults living in the same household. The evidence from dozens of studies is irrefutable – it damages children’s wellbeing, risks turning into physical violence and increases problems such as aggression and anxiety which can continue into adulthood. That’s why experts from the UN to the Children’s Commissioner, police officers, social workers, nurses, children’s and parenting charities have called for children to be given equal protection under the law.


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

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  • Good. I find it truly bizarre in this day and age that this is considered remotely controversial. Who is still defending the concept of showing young people that the way to enforce your will on those smaller and weaker than you is to use force?

  • Andrew McCaig 20th Oct '17 - 8:32pm

    Just so long as we are not going to go down the Norwegian route. There are, I am afraid, much worse forms of child abuse than smacking, and forcibly taking children away from their parents for inadequate reasons is one of them..

  • Peter Hayes 20th Oct '17 - 9:28pm

    As my parents are both dead it is probably safe to say they remember me saying “let Daddy smack me” as an an alternative to the shouting at from my mother. I don’t remember what I had done but verbal abuse can be as frightening as physical to a young child.

  • William Fowler 21st Oct '17 - 8:51am

    Well, no discipline in school, no discipline at home and immunity from criminal prosecution for kids adds up to… I must admit I do admire the optimism of the OP and others.

    On another note, I spend a good five minutes wandering up and down my street when I put my recycle bin out, picking up discarded bottles and bits of fast food wrappings – and have had young kids (possibly the ones who have thrown the stuff in the street) ask their parents what the heck I am doing!

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Oct '17 - 10:11am

    @William Fowler: It’s as if you think that the only form of disciplining a child is smacking them. My friends always said I was the strictest one of our group but my child was never smacked.

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