Welsh Government's Consultation on Legislative Proposal to Remove the Defence of Reasonable Punishment.

1.  Do you think our legislative proposal to remove the defence of reasonable punishment and prevent the use of corporal punishment will help achieve our stated aim of protecting children’s rights?
If no, why not?  The Welsh Government has a tendency to propose eye-catching legislation of unconvincing need and dubious efficacy - smoking in cars and organ donation are two such examples.  Now comes 'reasonable punishment'.  There are already legal prohibitions on child abuse, bodily harm, assault and so on.  The key outcome of this proposed legislation would stop loving parents giving infrequent, mild smack to their children with the intent of ensuring their obedience, safety and care.  We smacked our children, but never in anger.  Under the guise of 'children's rights' such good parenting would in future be criminalised and the parents subjected to prosecution - that is an ideological step too far.

2.  In addition to our existing parenting support and information campaign are there any other support mechanisms you think we should put in place to support parents, carers and guardians?
If yes, what are they?  It is beyond cavil that parents should be free to bring up their children according to their own understanding and ethical stance - it is their responsibility and delight, and they are the best placed to do so.  Government must resist becoming the nanny state and interfering.  However, there are some occasions where assistance is beneficial, particularly in the early days of family life.  Where the wider family is absent or community contacts are minimal, the provision of social clubs, clinics and so on can be advantageous.  But none of these should override the parents’ choices in child raising.

3.  What types of actions/behaviours would you consider to be “corporal punishment”?
The vast majority of parents understand what is 'reasonable chastisement' and what is excessive punishment.  They use different styles of parenting and that is their prerogative.  Opponents of smacking must resist their subjective tendency to conflate this with beating or thrashing or thumping or battery.  Mild correction, whether vocal or physical, are effective means for good parenting.

4.  Do you agree with our understanding of potential impacts on public bodies in Wales arising from the legislative proposal?
If not, why not?  The Welsh Government's aim to encourage positive parenting that is warm, supportive and so forth is commendable.  However, it is naive to believe that removing the lawful defence of reasonable chastisement will 'ensure that all children in Wales are given the chance to thrive and fulfil their potential.'  In addition, social services, the police, teachers and public servants are likely to be overrun by demands to investigate trivial complaints.

5.  Is there additional guidance or training required to support frontline professionals?
If yes please provide further details.  Probably, public servants and others will need help in differentiating between 'reasonable chastisement' and excessive punishment, whether it is vocal or physical - the line is extremely thin and therefore prone to damaging mismanagement.

6.  Please explain how you believe the proposed policy could be formulated or changed so as to have:(a) Positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language and(b) No adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.
No comment.

7.  We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any issues related to this consultation which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to report them.
There is much to agree with in this Consultation - we all aspire to positive parenting and better family life.  Yet children need boundaries - how these are assessed and achieved is debatable.  Reasonable smacking is one such proven method, indeed, there is no evidence-based research to suggest that reasonable smacking is ever counterproductive.  The defence in law should not be removed.

Dr John R. Ling,
27 March 2018.