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Endorsement for Equal Protection from Assault Bill 21/05/2019 A majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee have endorsed the general principles of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill

Endorsement for Equal Protection from Assault Bill

A majority of MSPs on Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee have endorsed the general principles of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) Bill in its Stage 1 report.

The Bill, introduced by John Finnie MSP, would remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” from Scots Law and aims to end the physical punishment of children.

The Committee’s report concluded that changing the law would bring Scotland into line with its international Human Rights obligations, improve children’s protection, and be a catalyst for a positive change in culture.

The Committee also acknowledged the concerns it heard about the Bill, particularly around ‘criminalising’ parents and parental rights to raise their children according to their own wishes. The Committee does not however believe changing the law would lead to a notable increase in the number of families brought into the criminal justice system. Nor did it find that the right to family life includes a right to hit children.

At present, the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ may be used in assault cases where a parent or carer has hit, smacked or otherwise physically punished a child. As a result, children have fewer legal protections from assault than adults, and cases where it is thought this defence might be claimed have not been regularly considered by the justice system.

“Removing a legal defence that justifies a parent hitting their child is a watershed moment in Scots law and in changing Scotland’s culture,” said Committee Convener, Ruth Maguire MSP. “It’s over three decades since all physical punishment was ended in classrooms, and it’s now time to end it at home as well. This law will ensure our children are legally protected from assault in the same way as adults.”

The Committee was also persuaded by the experience of countries such as Ireland and New Zealand, where similar legal changes have been introduced successfully, without a notable increase in prosecutions.

The report can be found here.

 

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