The UK laws on smacking children are changing - and parents could now be prosecuted

The laws are changing.
The laws are changing.

Smacking children is set to become illegal in the UK after law changes in Wales and Scotland come into force.

The Welsh Government has announced plans to introduce legislation to make it illegal to smack children by removing the defence of 'reasonable punishment'.

If passed by the National Assembly, this will mean that smacking in Wales will become illegal.

The news follows the Scottish government last month stating that they were planning to introduce an outright ban of the physical punishment of children.

According to the Guardian, John Finnie, the justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, proposed removing the defence of “justifiable assault” from Scottish law, giving children the same legal protection as adults.

It is currently legal in both countries for parents to physically discipline their children but both countries are planning to change these laws.

While it is still illegal for parents in England to hit their children, they still have a legal defence if they do it.

However, if these laws in Scotland and Wales are approved, this could mean English parents could be prosecuted if they smack their child over the borders.

According to Child Law Advice, it is unlawful for a parent or carer in England to smack their child, except where this amounts to a 'reasonable punishment'.

This defence is laid down in section 58 Children Act 2004,but it is not defined in this legislation.

Factors such as the age of the child and the nature of the smack are all taken into account of whether this amounts to 'reasonable punishment'.

It is illegal for teachers, nursery workers and child care workers to smack another person’s child.

A parent can be charged with a criminal offence if they harm their child under the following certain offences:

- an offence under sections 18 and 20 Offences against the Person Act 1861(wounding and causing grievous bodily harm)

- an offence under section 47 of that act (assault occasioning actual bodily harm)

- an offence under section 1 Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (cruelty to persons under 16).

Determining what charge will be made depends on the harm caused to the child.