Why smacking should not be banned

Why smacking should not be banned

By Norman Wells, Director.








Norman Wells is the Director of Family and Youth Concern (FYC). This article was previously published in the The Times, 5 July 2004 and in the FYC Family Bulletin, No. 116, summer 2004

It is reproduced her with the kind consent of the author.










If we are seriously concerned about the protection and welfare of children, we should not pursue a ban on smacking, and should resist the attempt of a vocal minority to impose their own views on parental discipline by force of law.




A ban on smacking would not give children more protection, but less. It would divert already overstretched child protection resources away from the children who need them most, and expose happy children from loving homes to the trauma and potential damage of police and social service interventions, even though they are at no risk of harm.




The current law already protects children from unreasonable and excessive punishment. Since the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of A v UK (1998), our courts have been obliged to take account of ‘the nature and context of the treatment, its duration, its physical and mental effects and, in some instances, the sex, age and state of health’ of the child. If there have been any recent cases of genuine child abuse where a prosecution has failed solely because of the reasonable chastisement defence, the fault lies not within the law itself, but in its administration.




In Sweden, the 1979 smacking ban contributed to a 489% increase in physical child abuse cases classified as criminal assaults from 1981-1994, and the perpetration of criminal assaults against 7-14 year-olds is increasing most rapidly in age groups raised after the law against smacking was passed. According to Unicef, Sweden’s rate of child maltreatment deaths differs very little from that of the UK, and of the five countries with the lowest rates of child abuse deaths, only one has a ban on smacking.




Parents have a unique relationship with their children, bearing unique responsibilities and unique powers, and an occasional disciplinary smack is by no means incompatible with a warm family life where children are loved and cherished. It is ludicrous to suggest that there is no difference between loving physical correction by a parent and a violent assault perpetrated by a stranger. There are many things that parents do to and for their children every day that would be quite inappropriate, if not illegal, to do to another adult, which is why the anti-smacking lobby’s appeal to the principle of ‘equality’ is so deeply flawed.




It is parents and not the state who are entrusted with responsibility for the care and nurture of their children. The state should intervene only in cases where there is evidence that a child is suffering significant harm. If the state attempts to dictate how parents may and may not discipline their children, it has gone beyond its remit and is exercising authority where it has no responsibility.



Sweden's smacking ban: more harm than good
By Robert E Larzelere


A misguided crusade that will break up families

By Lynette Burrows


Smacking: Those Swedes must be crazy

By Jean-Francis Held


Smacking and the Law. A European perspective
By Ruby Harrold-Claesson



Family and Youth Concern


Families First


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