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Shropshire Star comment: Smacking laws will just cause more confusion along the Shropshire and Mid Wales border

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

The Welsh Government’s move to impose a blanket ban on smacking children will understandably spark a great deal of debate across the country.

Smacking a child is to be outlawed in Wales

The fact that the ban will not apply in England will no doubt add to the confusion that already exists along the Shropshire and Mid Wales border, where postcodes do not align, where health services cause confusion and where there are different rules on a variety of issues, including parents who take their children out of schools and policies often differ due to the devolution of powers to the Welsh Assembly.

The absence of consistency means people who live in our region, just a few miles apart, are faced with very different sets of rules. But the ban on smacking children in Wales will certainly place it at the top of the agenda in England as well.

There has been a gradual shift away from physical punishment and this continues that trend.

The days of children being caned or hit with slippers has long since been outlawed by schools and now, in Wales at least, there will be a total ban on all physical admonishments by parents.

And yet, we are right to ask whether the law really makes sense or is proportionate. Laws already exist regarding the abuse of children and parents who transgress face losing their children.

Equally, strong laws are in place regarding assault.

There will no doubt be a wide range of views on whether the ban on smacking children is justified or sensible. On the one hand, some will view it as the state meddling in family matters and making parenting more difficult.

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But there will also be those who believe it is essential that more is done to protect children and prevent parents from hiding behind the reasonable chastisement justification.

There will also be those who fear relatively trivial incidents could now cause the criminalisation of a generation of parents in Wales. While no right-thinking person would ever support those who inflict severe physical punishment on children, does lightly holding a tantruming child’s arms by his side with minimal force, for a moment, until they calm down, justify a criminal record?

Welsh professor Dr Ashley Frawley is an advocate for Be Reasonable, which says reasonable chastisement is justified. She suggests a middle-class elite are introducing new, punitive measures that are unjustified.

Whether she is correct in this view is a matter of opinion – but in Wales at least the debate may soon be entirely academic.

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