Proposals to change the law would offer children the same legal protection from assault as adults, according to the Law Society of Scotland.
In its response to a consultation on the proposed Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, the Law Society has said that removing the common law defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ would bring greater clarity in the law by eliminating any need to interpret or define ‘reasonableness’ in the context of a physical assault on a child, and provide children with the same protection under the law as adults.
Ian Cruickshank, Convener of the Law Society of Scotland Criminal Law Committee, said: “There has been a change in culture over the years and physical chastisement of children is increasingly understood to be both ineffective and out of step with our understanding of children’s rights.
“These proposals seek to provide clarity in the law and to clearly define the limits of acceptable behaviour which would be applicable to all, regardless of age. If the law is changed in line with the proposed Bill, it would set clear boundaries as to what is acceptable when it comes to the physical punishment of children.”
The Law Society has also said the proposed Bill would help to bring Scotland in line with its international obligations.
Morag Driscoll, the Society’s Family Law Committee Convener, said: “The international legal community is clear that corporal punishment is not in keeping with the present day understanding of human rights. Physical punishment of children is now unlawful in 52 countries around the world, including the vast majority of those in the European Union.
“Scots law has been criticised by international organisations because, although most forms of physical force used against a child are unlawful, it has not gone so far as to make all forms of physical force against children unlawful. By retaining the common law defence of reasonable chastisement, the law in Scotland signals that some forms of assault against children are acceptable.
“The UK is signatory to and has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, however, the UN Human Rights Committee and UN Committee on the Rights of the Child have both stressed that the law in the United Kingdom is falling short when it comes to the protection of children. They have called for the law to be reformed as a matter of priority to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings, including the home.”
The full Law Society of Scotland response to the Bill proposed by John Finnie MSP can be read here.