Labour’s smacking laws could be ‘unworkable’ (UK!)

UK Telegraph 20 February 2008

Senior judges want parents who are taken to court for smacking their children to be treated leniently. A mother or father who does not intend to hurt their child should get only light sentences, new advice for the courts is expected to say. The recommendations could make Labour’s laws on smacking effectively unworkable. The rules are to be published today by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, the body headed by Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips.

It has suggested that parents who do not mean to harm their children should never be jailed. Documents prepared by Lord Phillips and colleagues said that if a parent who smacked a child had not meant to cause, or did not foresee, an injury they would not have intended to commit a crime. The Children Act of 2004 removed the defence of “reasonable chastisement” from parents who injured their children. Injuries as slight as a bruise can now result in an assault charge. However, in consultation papers the council said the courts should continue to give great weight to the “reasonable chastisement” doctrine. It said if there was no intention to cause injury, that should be “substantial mitigation”.