We believe that the traditional defence of “reasonable punishment” works against the aims which we and the Government of a modern UK share: the encouragement of positive parental discipline in all families, and assurance of effective child protection in the few cases where it is needed.
We believe it is both wrong and impracticable to seek to define acceptable forms of corporal punishment of children. Such an exercise is unjust. Hitting children is a lesson in bad behaviour. Removing the defence of “reasonable punishment” and thus giving children in their homes and in all other settings equal protection under the law on assault is the only just, moral and safe way to clarify the law. While technically this would criminalise any assault of a child, trivial assaults, like trivial assaults between adults, would not be prosecuted. There already exist adequate means to prevent unwarranted or unhelpful prosecutions. It would on the other hand ease prosecution in serious cases. It would eliminate the current dangerous confusion over what is acceptable and provide a clear basis for child protection.
There is plenty of evidence from other countries to show that full legal reform, coupled with the promotion of effective means of positive discipline, works rapidly to reduce reliance on corporal punishment and reduces the need for prosecutions and other formal interventions in families. Using positive forms of discipline reduces stress and improves relationships between children, their parents and other carers.