HUNDREDS of parents will be slapped with prison sentences when Wales brings in its new ban on smacking kids, police figures show.
The Welsh Government has been warned by anti-ban campaigners that it is “playing with fire” and that changing the law would be “disproportionate” against parents.
There “could be around 1,300 investigations into smacking as an assault after the law changes in the first five years of implementation,” a committee heard.
Jamie Gillies, spokesman for campaign group Be Reasonable – which aims to “stop the assault on parenting” – told the Welsh Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee: “The ramifications of this Bill are massive for the Welsh public”.
He added that the “government is playing with fire if it thinks it can make this change in the law and not affect the lives of parents and by extension children”.
Referring to data from the Police Liaison Unit in Wales, Mr Gillies told the committee that forces there estimate that 1,370 smacking crimes could be recorded in five years, when the government removes the reasonable chastisement defence.
The committee has been listening to evidence on the government’s plan to remove “reasonable punishment” as a defence for parents hitting their kids.
Mr Gillies said the defence of reasonable chastisement had only been used in the UK three times in the last nine years, with all cases taking place in England.
He said changing the law would be “disproportionate”, and asked, “how many parents are we going to see criminalised for actions which we now call smacking or reasonable chastisement?
“How many parents are going to have police cautions, which would appear on DBS checks which could potentially affect their employment?
“You’re going to be compelling police to pursue parents who smack their children, and police budgets and times are already constrained.
“Police are trying to identify children who are at risk of genuine abuse, so that’s going to make it more of a challenge for them… to investigate good families who have just used very light discipline with their children.”
Legislation for the ban was introduced into the Welsh Assembly in March.
Be Reasonable said that changing the law “will lead to hundreds of ordinary parents being prosecuted.
“Even when there is no crime they could still have their name recorded on a database consulted when when people apply to work with young people and vulnerable adults.
“In some cases this could prevent them getting a job, even if they are a highly skilled doctor, nurse or teacher.”
The Express said that the Police Liaison Unit estimate on smacking criminal cases came from an audit of recorded crimes, which related to the reasonable chastisement defence between 2017 and 2018.”
A proposed smacking ban in Wales could see English families prosecuted for disciplining their children while on holiday, a Welsh Assembly committee has heard.
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When the Welsh Government published a bill in March this year, removing “reasonable punishment” as a defence, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan, said: “We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales.
“What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.”
The government Bill is currently being scrutinised, with ministers hoping it will be passed by the National Assembly and brought into law after achieving royal assent by spring 2020.
Parents in Wales could no longer be able to smack their children as punishment if new laws are passed (posed by model)[/caption]