Children’s Commissioner loses smack appeal (UK)

BBC News 20 Feb 09

NI Children’s Commissioner Patricia Lewsley has lost an appeal against the law which allows parents to use smacking as chastisement. Judges ruled the challenge must fail because she cannot be classed as a victim under the Human Rights Act. ….Her lawyers argued that a defence based on the right of parental correction or punishment is incompatible with children’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. They claimed parental corporal punishment breached the dignity and well-being of children, that it is ineffective and a counterproductive means of discipline. It was also submitted that it sends out the wrong message to parents and that the law lacked the clarity and transparency. During the case it was suggested smacking of children is a deterrent similar to electric fences being used to keep animals in a field.

Dismissing the appeal Lord Justice Girvan ruled that the High Court judge who rejected Ms Lewsley’s original judicial review application had reached the right verdict. He also pointed out that the use or threat of force is not always unlawful. “In particular, it may be justified on the basis of actual or implied consent, self-defence, crime prevention or crowd control and on the basis that it involved the lawful punishment of a child,” he said. “It is for the prosecution to prove that a parent was not lawfully correcting his child when the issue arises.”