Torfaen AM Lynne Neagle has penned her latest Argus Your AM Writes column. She says:

A CONSULTATION is now open on the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.

If the Bill is passed, parents and other adults acting in a parental capacity will no longer be able to physically punish children – giving children the same protection from physical punishment as adults.

The Bill will do this by abolishing the common law defence of reasonable punishment so that any adult acting in a parental capacity cannot use it as a defence if accused of assault or battery against a child – meaning they can no longer legally physically punish a child.

As of May 2018, 53 countries have made the physical punishment of children unlawful. Some countries have abolished the defence of reasonable punishment in their criminal law.

Other countries, some of which had first abolished the defence of reasonable punishment, have incorporated into their civil codes laws which explicitly prohibit the physical punishment of children by parents. Other countries are considering reform.

Welsh Government has a long standing commitment to changing the law in Wales. The Bill as drafted does not create a new offence, rather it removes a defence to the existing offences of common assault and battery and the tort of trespass to the person.

Research in Wales suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing. Fewer parents and guardians support physical punishment. In 2017, some 81 per cent of parents of young children in Wales disagreed that “it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child” – an increase from 71 per cent in 2015.

The Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children's Behaviour 2017 survey also found only 11 per cent of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months as a way of managing their behaviour, half that in 2015 at 22 per cent.

The introduction of the Bill builds on the Welsh Government’s commitment to children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Bill was introduced by the Welsh Government in March and has been referred to the Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee, which I chair, for scrutiny.

The Bill is likely to attract significant public interest with a wide range of views both in opposition and support. These include Be Reasonable Wales which opposes a change in the law and Children are Unbeatable which has campaigned to change the current law. To inform its scrutiny, the Committee is running an online consultation.

The aim is to enable members of the public and organisations to submit their views. I would encourage everyone to submit their views.

If you would like to learn more about the proposed legislation, a summary of the Bill is available on the Welsh Assembly website.

Please be aware the consultation will close at 5pm on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 and it will not be possible to consider responses received after this date.