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Legislation on smacking

BMJ 2004; 329 doi: (Published 18 November 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;329:1195
  1. Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health (
  1. Division of Health in the Community, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL

    A complete ban would help improve parenting practices

    In spite of intensive lobbying by professional and charitable organisations,1 members of parliament voted recently not to outlaw the physical punishment of children. Instead they voted only to outlaw abusive punishment. If as proposed the Crown Prosecution Service's charging standard is changed abusive punishment will be defined as punishment that grazes, scratches, bruises, leaves any mark, or causes mental harm. Such punishment could now result in conviction for actual bodily harm—a very serious offence. For lesser punishments parents will still be able to make the claim that they are using reasonable chastisement as enshrined in the 1933 Children and Young People Act.

    In voting in this way, members of parliament have implicitly stated that the law should offer its most vulnerable citizens (children) less protection from assault than is offered to adults. Even though this does not seem to have been a problem in the 12 other European countries where a ban has been implemented, concern about the …

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