Ahead of the this week’s debate in the Welsh Parliament calling for a smacking ban to be introduced in Wales, Montgomeryshire AM, Russell George, has highlighted a new nationwide poll in New Zealand which found that half of New Zealanders believe that the 2007 anti-smacking law there has caused a decline in discipline.
The poll carried out at the beginning of last December also indicated that almost 40 percent of mothers of young children say they have smacked despite the law change.
On Tuesday (21st January), Assembly Members will debate Stage 3 of the Children (Abolition of the Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr George said:
“This latest poll from New Zealand is further evidence that smacking bans do not work. Thirteen years after a ban was introduced in New Zealand, this poll indicates that the it is having no effect on child abuse rates, and may actually be doing more harm than good."
"Any abuse of a child is intolerable and I support all workable movements to improve welfare and safety for young people, but if we are going to introduce laws to further protect children from harm, they need to be robust and enforceable."
The Bill seeks to remove the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ by an accused person. If carried, the defence will no longer be available to anyone in Wales, including visitors, in any event that they are accused of assault or battery against a child. In doing so, the Welsh Government claims that children in Wales will be offered the same legal protection from physical punishment as adults.
Mr George added:
"This legislation is yet another example of a poorly thought-through Welsh Government initiative and could criminalise tens of thousands of decent, loving parents and be nigh on impossible to enforce. The overwhelming majority of parents know where to draw the line between chastisement and abuse and we should trust their judgement. I believe that parents are best placed to care for their children - not the Welsh Government.
“The public in Wales don't want this legislation. Whenever public opinion has been tested, the response has been very, very clear, and that is: the overwhelming majority, between two thirds and three quarters of people, do not believe that a smacking ban should be introduced.
“We already have comprehensive legislation in place that the police, social services and others use to deal with child abuse and those who break them should feel the full weight of the law.
"Most parents who use the occasional smack do so within the confines of a loving relationship with the child who they want to raise to be a responsible adult and someone who can contribute to society usefully in the future.
“The Welsh Government should abandon these unpopular plans."