#childsafety | Scots who see a parent smacking their child ‘should dial 999 and report a crime’

SCOTS who see a parent smacking their child should dial 999 and report a crime, new Scottish Government guidance suggests. 

It comes ahead of a law change next month to ban the physical punishment and discipline of children, including smacking, skelping, spanking and slapping. 

Campaigners said the so-called smacking ban will turn “ordinary, decent mums and dads into criminals”.

Under the headline “if you see someone physically punishing their child”, the new guidance says “you should call 999 to report a crime in progress or if a child or young person is in immediate danger”.

It adds: “You can also call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed.”

Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociologist and spokeswoman for campaign group Be Reasonable, said: “Supporters of the smacking ban, including the Scottish Government, constantly claimed that it is ‘not about criminalising parents’. 

“Yet here we have government guidance encouraging the reporting of smacking as a ‘crime’ and confirming that parents can be ‘prosecuted’. 

“This confirms what we’ve been saying from day one – the smacking ban will turn ordinary, decent mums and dads into criminals.

“Parents and carers in Scotland should be outraged at the dishonesty of the political class. A smacking ban was completely unnecessary. 

“There is no evidence that light physical discipline harms children, and current laws already criminalise abuse.”

She added: “The idea that Scots should inform on one another for smacking is chilling. Curtain twitching neighbours will have a field day. 

“As with the hated ‘named person’ policy, this shows that the Scottish Government has complete contempt for parents. Ministers simply don’t trust parents to bring up their children.

“Instead, they’re using the criminal law – the strong arm of the police and other state agencies – to ensure SNP-approved parenting outcomes. Families must be utterly sick of it.”

The new guidance explains that if a parent or carer physically punishes or disciplines their child they can be prosecuted with assault.  

Under the current law, the defence of “reasonable chastisement” may be available to them.

But the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 will change the law and remove the “reasonable chastisement” defence from November 7.

This will ban all forms of physical punishment against children.

The guidance adds: “The Act does not introduce a new offence. It just removes a defence to the existing offence of assault.”

Similar legislation has been introduced elsewhere, including in Ireland and New Zealand.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “This important legislation gives children the same legal protections as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion. 

“The objective of the guidance is to provide information and advice about the Act, and to support families and children with resources such as Parent Club.

“Based on experience from elsewhere, we do not expect a large number of prosecutions.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Samantha McCluskey, head of public protection at Police Scotland, said: “There has always been a duty on the police to investigate reports of assault on a child.

“The Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019, however, removes the statutory defence, that was previously available, should a prosecution take place.

“Every report is unique and officers will have to look at all of the information and the circumstances of each report when considering disposal options, one of which will be reporting to COPFS for potential prosecution.

“We have developed bespoke training currently being undertaken by all relevant police officers and staff.

“Police Scotland has been fully engaged with the Scottish Government and key partners such as Social Work Scotland and Crown Office & Procurator Fiscal Service in the the Scottish Government led multi-agency Implementation Group for the Act.

“Police Scotland will continue to place children’s safety and wellbeing at the centre of any decision making.”

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