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Smacking children in Wales could be banned after public consultation

Wales could follow Scotland and ban the physical punishment of children. Credit: PA

Smacking children could be outlawed in Wales following a twelve-week public consultation.

The ban would make Wales the second UK region to prohibit the physical punishment of children.

The Scottish Government has already announced plans to remove the defence of ''justifiable assault'' from its books, which allows parents to use physical punishment to admonish a child.

The Welsh government plans to remove the defence of reasonable punishment to the offences of battery and assault.

"We want parents in Wales to be confident in managing their children's behaviour without feeling they must resort to physical punishment," said Minister for Children and Social Care Huw Irranca-Davies.

"If there is any potential risk of harm to a child then it is our obligation as a government to take action.

"Legislation was introduced many years ago to stop physical punishment in schools and childcare settings - now is the time to ensure it is no longer acceptable anywhere."

The consultation, which closes on April 2 2018, would provide everyone with a chance to express their differing views on the matter, the minister said.

"As a parent of three boys myself, I know being a parent can sometimes be a challenging experience," Irranca-Davies said.

"Children do not come with an instruction manual and sometimes parents need guidance and support to help them raise healthy and happy children."

He said it was now known that physical punishment could have "negative long-term impacts on a child's life chances" and was an "ineffective punishment".

A spokesman for NSPCC Cymru said the charity had long campaigned for children in Wales to have the same protection against assault as adults.

"We welcome the steps being taken towards removing the defence of 'reasonable punishment'," he said. "Doing so is a common-sense move which is about fairness and equality for children.

"It is wrong that a defence which does not exist in a case of common assault against an adult can be used to justify striking a child. Closing this loophole will bring Wales in line with dozens of countries around the world and finally give our children equal protection under the law."

Sally Holland, the Children's Commissioner for Wales, warned there was a lot of "misinformation circulating during debates about this topic over recent months."

"Here are the facts: Welsh Government does not want to create a new criminal offence. Welsh Government does not want to criminalise parents. What Government does want to do is to ensure children living in Wales are afforded the same protection in the law as adults. Hitting or smacking a child is never loving or caring."

Other countries that have already made the change include France, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland.