PLANS which could make smacking children illegal in Wales will “criminalise thousands of ordinary parents”, a charity has claimed.

The Welsh Government is currently developing plans to remove the legal defence of reasonable chastisement.

Although ministers have said this will give children greater protection from abuse, campaign group Be Reasonable has said it will lead to parents being jailed for disciplining their children, while putting greater strain on social services.

The charity's spokeswoman Lowri Turner said: “The people calling for this change are using hysterical and manipulative language.

“They’re trying to make out that a gentle smack on the back of the legs from a loving mum is the same as beating up your kids.

“Does anyone seriously think that that sort of abuse is not already illegal?

“If the government can’t tell the difference then they shouldn’t be passing laws about it.”

A poll of 1,000 adults carried out by the charity found 74 per cent agreed banning smacking would “criminalise reasonable parents while doing little to stop bad parents from abusing children”.

And 11 per cent agreed smacking children should be a criminal offence.

Ms Turner added: “Campaigners for a ban know that the public is against them and these new findings confirm that the move is widely seen as an unwanted intrusion by the state.”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We have made a firm commitment to seek cross party support for legislation to remove the defence of reasonable punishment.

“This will form part of our wider work to promote positive parenting.

“We will consult fully on proposals over the next 12 months to ensure views are received from a wide range of people.

“We will work hard to ensure that our legislation makes life better for both parents and children.”

And Wales’ children’s commissioner Sally Holland said she was “disappointed and saddened” by the campaign.

“Children have the right to be safe and yet this is the only part of our law that gives children less protection from harm that adults enjoy,” she said.

“I am therefore delighted that the government has committed to changing the law to uphold children’s rights in this way.”

She added: “I said on the day I was appointed that I would work to give children the same protection in the law as adults. I will not rest until they have this protection.”

The Welsh Government will launch a consultation on the plan within 12 months.