*** ----> Paediatricians urge govt to outlaw smacking kids in England, Northern Ireland | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Paediatricians urge govt to outlaw smacking kids in England, Northern Ireland

AFP | London     

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Paediatricians on Wednesday urged the UK government to follow devolved governments in Scotland and Wales and outlaw smacking children in England and Northern Ireland, arguing the move was "long overdue".

One government minister insisted however that the existing laws were adequate.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said in a new report that current law in England and Northern Ireland had created "grey areas" that sometimes provided a defence for physical punishment.

Wales made any type of corporal punishment -- including smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking -- illegal in March 2022, while Scotland introduced a similar ban in November 2020.

However, the RCPCH argues a 2004 law for England and 2006 legislation for Northern Ireland covering this area needed amending to remove a possible "reasonable punishment" defence.

Its report said that ahead of a general election expected later this year, all political parties should make "meaningful commitments on this important children's rights issue".

However, government minister Laura Trott insisted laws in England were clear and that any abuse of children is "completely unacceptable", in comments to Sky News Wednesday.

"They are very clearly set out in the Children Act, but it is for parents to discipline their children," she added.

But Andrew Rowland, a consultant paediatrician and RCPCH officer, criticised the situation in the two UK nations without recent changes.

"The laws around physical punishment as they stand are unjust and dangerously vague," he argued.

"They create a grey area in which some forms of physical punishment may be lawful, and some are not."

Rowland added he was "regularly faced with situations where it is alleged that physical punishment has been used against a child" but that the "vague nature of the laws make it extremely challenging" to respond.

"Changing the laws in England and Northern Ireland will give us absolute clarity and ensure there are no instances where it is acceptable or lawful to smack a child," he said.