Children to gain new protections in Scotland after consultative bill is published
A CONSULTATION has been launched this Friday (12 May) for a bill in the Scottish Parliament to ensure children in Scotland receive equal protection from assault.
Backed by some of Scotland’s largest charities including the Barnardos, Humanist Society Scotland and the Church of Scotland, John Finnie MSP for the Scottish Greens opened the three month consultation with the aim of guaranteeing equal safety for children.
Campaigners hope the Children Equal Protection from Assault (Scotland) Bill will review the controversial issue of ‘’justifiable assault’ in Scots law which opponents say allows for the assault of children under the guise of adult discipline.
The Criminal Justice Act passed in 2003 in Scotland gives parents a legal defence of ‘justifiable assault’, making physical punishment of children legally permissible in some cases but not taking into account abusive situations.
“Research evidence is clear that physical punishment, no matter how ‘light’, has the potential to damage children.” Tam Baillie
Dr Rev Richard Frazer, the convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “The Church of Scotland supports the proposed Bill to offer equal protection to children. Whilst parents continue to have responsibility for the nurture of their children, as well as the creation of boundaries for them, we believe that the resort to violence should fade from being acceptable as we come to understand its negative impact.”
Launching a three month consultation on the legislation, Finnie who is an MSP for the Highland and Islands, said: “Scotland cannot be thought of as the best place in the world for children to grow up while our law gives children less protection from assault than anybody else in society. There is clear evidence that the use of physical punishment is detrimental to children’s long term health and wellbeing.
“Giving children full protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other and underpins Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence across the whole of society. My proposed bill seeks to afford children the same protection from assault that is currently enjoyed by the rest of society and I would encourage all interested parties to respond to my consultation.”
“Giving children full protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other and underpins Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence across the whole of society.” John Finnie MSP
Groups such as Parenting Across Scotland emphasise that such a bill would not criminalise parents but argue that parenting need not “demonstrate physical force as the first resort.” The group which cited research by children’s organisations said that legal reform would help both children and parents and pointed to “robust evidence” linking physical punishment fo children to long term physical and mental harm.
For the past 15 years, children’s rights’ groups have suggested that Scots law is too ambiguous on the issue of the hitting of children and the consultation is an attempt to garner support behind the bill from the public and those with expertise.
Tam Baillie, Children & Young People’s Commissioner, added: “The launch of John Finnie’s consultation is a positive step towards providing children with equal protection from assault. It is hard to believe that our legal system continues to provide a defence of ‘justifiable assault’. For me, there is no such thing because there is no way we can ever justify the hitting of a child. Research evidence is clear that physical punishment, no matter how ‘light’, has the potential to damage children. It also shows a clear link between the use of physical punishment and an escalation into more abusive behaviours.”
Picture courtesy of Barnardos
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