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Smacking Your Children

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 13 Oct 2017 |
 
Law Smack Child Discipline Assault

You may already know that it is illegal for a teacher to smack your child. But a change in the law will mean that they are able to use 'reasonable force' to restrain children if they are being disruptive, committing a crime, harming someone or damaging something. The changes will also give teachers a new general right to search children on school premises. This is in order to search for anything banned by the school.

Smacking Your Own Child

It is not illegal for a parent to hit their child as long as the ‘smack’ amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. There is, therefore, a difference between punishment and what can feasibly be termed ‘abuse’. Unreasonable punishment is classed as a smack that leaves a mark on the child, or the use of an implement to hit the child, such as a belt or cane. A parent can give another person consent to use reasonable punishment on their child, such as a babysitter or grandparent.

Criminal Offences

So where do you draw the line between assault – a criminal offence – and reasonable punishment? And what happens if the discipline is seen as Child Cruelty in criminal legal terms? Common assault is chargeable by the Crown Prosecution Service if it amounts to scratches, minor bruising, grazes, red skin, a black eye or superficial cuts.

Actual bodily harm could be a broken or lost tooth, broken nose, minor cuts (more than merely superficial), a loss of consciousness, serious bruising, or minor bone fractures, as well as emotional damage that amounts to a psychiatric injury.

Grievous bodily harm requires a compound fracture, injuries that cause a substantial amount of blood loss (requiring a transfusion), a visual disfigurement, injuries that result in permanent disability, or ‘wounding’ that breaks both the inner and outer layers of the skin. Again, this could include psychiatric injury.

Grievous bodily harm with intent is the most serious (before attempted murder) and carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. This would be the right charge if a parent wounded their child with intent, unlawfully, maliciously and intentionally, or caused grievous bodily harm to another person.

Will Smacking Be Banned?

The NSPCC and other children’s charities have been rigorously campaigning for a total ban on smacking. This has not yet come in to force and is unlikely to do so for the foreseeable future. It would also be very hard to enforce within private homes, and reinforces recent government criticism about the ‘nanny state’. Views are divided, but critics of the current law say that it violates the rights of a child not to have recourse to having suffered an assault.

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What would be the next step to take if the social services do not investigate fully. With what is happening to my grandsons due to my daughters boyfriend. I phoned nspcc about it they got in touch with social services. But closed the case in 3 days to what I have been told. I did ring them on Wednesday morning this week and no one as rang me back about it. It was lunch time on Wednesday that my daughter rang and said the case us closed. What can I do now, how else can I get evidence of what is happening.
junie - 13-Oct-17 @ 5:46 PM
Scared - Your Question:
Divorce Feb due to verbal domestic violence. My ex fort for shared care of our 4 year old who has mild disabilities and delayed development (attending mainstream school). The ex used to drink but through divorce did 3 month rehab to stop and declared he would never drink whilst looking after our son. This weekend our son was with his dad. I received a call from his dad to say our son had kicked another child so from instinct he slapped our son, his check was red but when I spoke to him it had settled. I am scared for my son, I know my ex has a temper he cannot control. He never touched me physically but broke things in the house and was abusive. I raised this in the divorce but he was not seen a threat to our child. Should I report to social services, I don't want to add any more friction than already there so only want to report if action will be taken. Thank you

Our Response:
We can't really advise on individual issues like this. It's really your call, you know your son and you know your ex partner. He phoned you and told you about it, so at least you know he's not trying to hide it from you.
LawAndParents - 9-Oct-17 @ 3:03 PM
Divorce Feb due to verbal domestic violence. My ex fort for shared care of our 4 year old who has mild disabilities and delayed development (attending mainstream school). The ex used to drink but through divorce did 3 month rehab to stop and declared he would never drink whilst looking after our son. This weekend our son was with his dad. I received a call from his dad to say our son had kicked another child so from instinct he slapped our son, his check was red but when I spoke to him it had settled. I am scared for my son, I know my ex has a temper he cannot control. He never touched me physically but broke things in the house and was abusive. I raised this in the divorce but he was not seen a threat to our child. Should I report to social services, I don't want to add any more friction than already there so only want to report if action will be taken. Thank you
Scared - 8-Oct-17 @ 9:04 PM
junie - Your Question:
Is it against the law for my daughters boyfriend to pull down my grandson trousers and under wear and then hit him with a slipper, after he has been told off and starts crying for his nanna and hits him harder fir crying.

Our Response:
The law on smacking is vague ("It is unlawful for a parent or carer to smack their child, except where this amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’"), but it's likely that an adult smacking a child's bare bottom would be considered indecent assault especially if he is not the biological father. Call the NSPCC helpline for advice.
LawAndParents - 12-Sep-17 @ 12:16 PM
Is it against the law for my daughters boyfriend to pull down my grandson trousers and under wear and then hit him with a slipper, after he has been told off and starts crying for his nanna and hits him harder fir crying.
junie - 11-Sep-17 @ 5:23 AM
I smacked my child on the backside, social work are trying to say I'm abusing her. The whole reason for social work involvement is because my brother sexually abused me when I was 7. It took me a long time to tell anyone and when I did, I eventually called the police. So really the social worker was allocated in January but didn't come out until June.What can I do?
Kelz16 - 13-Jul-17 @ 11:35 PM
Is it legal to restrain a child who has asd and becomes violent? My husband sons stepdad had to do this on my part recently as i was recovering from major surgery our son then ran off and has since told the police my husband beat him (i was in the room when this allegedly happened and he didnt at all) the police have now interviewed my husband under caution and told him he can be charged with assault for restraining him as it is illegal?? Where do we stand?
Km86 - 8-Jul-17 @ 11:26 PM
Hmc12 - Your Question:
Can you smack a child's hand for misbehaving when they ignore being told verbally? Leaving no marks or any lasting injury just literally a slap on the hand in the hope it alters the bahaviour. I've tried everything and just am not getting through to them and I get threats all the while saying things like hit me I will tell so I just really need to no what I can do that is legal that will make them reconsider there behaviours

Our Response:
As the article says "It is not illegal for a parent to hit their child as long as the ‘smack’ amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’. There is, therefore, a difference between punishment and what can feasibly be termed ‘abuse’. Unreasonable punishment is classed as a smack that leaves a mark on the child, or the use of an implement to hit the child, such as a belt or cane. "
LawAndParents - 6-Jul-17 @ 9:29 AM
Can you smack a child's hand for misbehaving when they ignore being told verbally? Leaving no marks or any lasting injury just literally a slap on the hand in the hope it alters the bahaviour. I've tried everything and just am not getting through to them and I get threats all the while saying things like hit me I will tell so I just really need to no what I can do that is legal that will make them reconsider there behaviours
Hmc12 - 3-Jul-17 @ 6:38 PM
Dicky - Your Question:
I have just found out my former partners new husband has been hitting my daughter this was seen by his own daughter who reported it to her mother who in turn informed me.what is my best course of action.

Our Response:
Talk to both your daughter and your ex about this. Involve the police if you find it to be true.
LawAndParents - 29-Jun-17 @ 11:22 AM
I have just found out my former partners new husband has been hitting my daughter this was seen by his own daughter who reported it to her mother who in turn informed me.what is my best course of action.
Dicky - 27-Jun-17 @ 11:13 PM
Rachel-if your parents have treated you badly, courts can stop them looking after other children. If it is an order that allows the care of your brothers children then the courts don't have reason to believe they will be harmed. Hope this helps. I believe smacking should be made illegal in this country and am swayed to work with organisations like NSPCC and Childline to stop the current reasonable law.
anon - 17-Jun-17 @ 3:12 PM
I was charged with asolting my daughter will I get her back
Daisy - 4-Jun-17 @ 3:21 PM
My grandsons father hashim twicea week .he came home to tell us his dad had slapped him up the head and shouted at hi because he said he didn't want to eat his porridge. (He dnt like porridge).I'm nt happy about this should this be allowedra
Deedee - 22-May-17 @ 5:34 PM
yvonne singleton - Your Question:
Please help. Theys a long story attached to this. Basically my oldest grandson has loads of problems very nervy etc., Tonight is the second time he has come to my house with severe red marks around his throat. There has been arguments all day in his house and one of his sisters aged 11yrs was deliberalty causing problems and my grandson broke her necklace. My son then practically strangled my grandson with his hoodie. I cant take much more as this is second time this has happened. Previous his mother punched him in the ribs and tbere were hand prints round his throat. My family dont want me to do anything. I cant I cant stand this abuse its stressing me out and I had to go upstairs to cry. Please help

Our Response:
If your grandson is being abused in this way, you need to do something. Can he come and stay with you for a short period while you try and sort something out? His safety is the main concern and no young person should have to suffer like this. Call the Family Lives helpline or perhaps the NSPCC or Childline to get some more initial advice without having to take action that might too dramatic. It may be that parenting classes or counselling can be arranged to help the parents and your grandson.
LawAndParents - 23-Feb-17 @ 2:32 PM
Please help. Theys a long story attached to this. Basically my oldest grandson has loads of problems very nervy etc., Tonight is the second time he has come to my house with severe red marks around his throat. There has been arguments all day in his house and one of his sisters aged 11yrs was deliberalty causing problems and my grandson broke her necklace. My son then practically strangled my grandson with his hoodie. I cant take much more as this is second time this has happened. Previous his mother punched him in the ribs and tbere were hand prints round his throat. My family dont want me to do anything. I cant I cant stand this abuse its stressing me out and I had to go upstairs to cry. Please help
yvonne singleton - 22-Feb-17 @ 8:20 PM
i get beaten all the time by someone i was told to call mom and swears at me in spanish.The last time i got beaten was for accidentallyleaving tissue on the floor
dj - 9-Feb-17 @ 8:00 PM
I need some urgent advice for my friend who is going to a 'hearing' this week. She has been charged with 'beating' her daughter.Basically she slapped her 17 year old daughter around the face, twice. She was extremely provoked, and believed her daugter to be hysterical. The 'witnesses' that called the police, refused to be witnesses, but egged the daughter on complain to the police. The daughter has since retracted her statement. My friend is being told that she must plead guilty to beating, otherwise it will go to trial "and that would be worse"?.She has already been told she has been given bad advice by the police lawyer (telling her to say 'no comment' to everything) - but the solicitor might be able to 'turn things around' by telling the court that she had been given bad advice, and she has a good character - but surely once she pleads guilty, whatever the mitigating circumstances - she will get a criminal record??
WorriedFriend - 17-Jan-17 @ 8:20 PM
My ex wife is a school teacher. My son told me he had to stay off school for 1 week because his mummy smacked him so hard leaving him bruised on his shoulder. He is 10 and had to stay at home on his own for the full week. This was also backed up by neighbours who rang to ask why he was alone in the house.
Shamus - 30-Dec-16 @ 1:02 PM
Maybe you could get his dad to put him across his knee and smack his backside hard. He sounds as though he needs to be taught some discipline
Chris - 17-Dec-16 @ 2:16 PM
Chin abuse is the worst kind of abuse, that and elbow abuse.. Racheal you should sue your grandparents for having you parents and them in turn having you and being so disappointed with you that they needed to abuse your big fat ugly chin... Was the TV show you took them on the Crystal Maze? I can imagine that giving you a good kicking for getting 225 Gold and 127 Silver! But just remember, that you don't abuse your own childrens chins! break the cycle!(Muddy Fox!)
Nasty NIcker - 14-Dec-16 @ 8:35 PM
Rachel - Your Question:
Hi I took my parents on a tv show, for chin abuse they admitted they did hit me when I stepped out of line, I'm now 30 this has effected me mentally and emotionally, they have a care order over my brothers children, is this right?

Our Response:
We really don't know the full circumstances of your situation here so we can't comment.
LawAndParents - 14-Dec-16 @ 11:17 AM
Hi I took my parents on a tv show, for chin abuse they admitted they did hit me when I stepped out of line, I'm now 30 this has effected me mentally and emotionally, they have a care order over my brothers children, is this right?
Rachel - 13-Dec-16 @ 11:09 AM
My 12 year old daughter has had a phone thrown at her face by her dad causing it to bleed. She also said he has been swearing at her in anger. What are my rights?
Peng - 8-Dec-16 @ 9:19 PM
My 5 year old child goes out of her way to upset other people and break things. Now you're thinking "that's preposterous she's only 5!" Well let me elaborate, we have taken away her pens because she continuously draws on the wall/table/floor/sofa/dog/clothing, so the other day she decided she wanted to break her dads pen, then she approaches him and says "I broke your pen because I wanted to make you upset" litterally! She's started to try and hit us, even screaming and throwing things it's nothing I've EVER seen a child her age do, like, it's full blown teenage RAGE! We don't know where it has come from as she has never been spanked, or even shouted at! Her father and I strive for a calm household but she's just getting worse and we just don't know what to do anymore! We don't want to spank her for the verbal abuse or constant lying, we can't preach enough that we don't want her to be spanked for her verbal abuse, we can only see it right to spank a child if they strike you first, thus not to encourage physical abuse.. but really.. what the heck do I do?!
Had enough - 8-Dec-16 @ 6:48 PM
My 5 year old child goes out of her way to upset other people and break things. Now you're thinking "that's preposterous she's only 5!" Well let me elaborate, we have taken away her pens because she continuously draws on the wall/table/floor/sofa/dog/clothing, so the other day she decided she wanted to break her dads pen, then she approaches him and says "I broke your pen because I wanted to make you upset" litterally! She's started to try and hit us, even screaming and throwing things it's nothing I've EVER seen a child her age do, like, it's full blown teenage RAGE! We don't know where it has come from as she has never been spanked, or even shouted at! Her father and I strive for a calm household but she's just getting worse and we just don't know what to do anymore! We don't want to spank her for the verbal abuse or constant lying, we can't preach enough that we don't want her to be spanked for her verbal abuse, we can only see it right to spank a child if they strike you first, thus not to encourage physical abuse.. but really.. what the heck do I do?!
Had enough - 8-Dec-16 @ 6:47 PM
NCB - Your Question:
My wife hits my 18month old son. She loses control and repeatedly hits him in anger. The last two times he hasn't done anything to warrant it (climbed up on her knee and accidentally knocked an item of clothing to the floor). I pulled him away, he was screaming and told her never to hit our children to which I get the response "what are you going to do about it" and "I'll do what I like when you are at work, you can't stop me".I am genuinely concerned, she needs help but I don't know where to turn.

Our Response:
Your responsibility is to your children here. You could try social services, but might want to try the NSPCC helpline first for advice (sometimes they will contact social services on your behalf). They may be able to help your wife with suggestions for parenting classes/counselling/therapy.
LawAndParents - 30-Nov-16 @ 11:48 AM
My wife hits my 18month old son. She loses control and repeatedly hits him in anger. The last two times he hasn't done anything to warrant it (climbed up on her knee and accidentally knocked an item of clothing to the floor). I pulled him away, he was screaming and told her never to hit our children to which I get the response "what are you going to do about it" and "I'll do what I like when you are at work, you can't stop me". I am genuinely concerned, she needs help but I don't know where to turn.
NCB - 29-Nov-16 @ 8:04 AM
Pixi - Your Question:
I have just slapped my 15yr old son round the face!!! Cant beleive I have allowed my sself to do that!! I just wanted to complete a job without a battle or nominating his brother, became argument about principles I am the parent you are the child Argument escalated ànd he said I was terrible mum not fit to be a parent felt like stabbed me in my heart and I slapped him hard in face we ended up wrestling!!! He wanted to leave I wouldn't let him eventually he overpowered me and left!! Dont know what to do

Our Response:
Let him cool down first before sending him a message to say you're sorry that you reacted in this way but your household can only operate if everyone contributes. Make sure he knows you love him. If he doesn't come back of his own accord, obviously you may have to contact the police. Can his father or another family member help to intervene?
LawAndParents - 23-Nov-16 @ 11:29 AM
I have just slapped my 15yr old son round the face!!! Cant beleive i have allowed my sself to do that!! I just wanted to complete a job without a battle or nominating his brother, became argument about principles i am the parent you are the child Argument escalated ànd he said i was terrible mum not fit to be a parent felt like stabbed me in my heart and i slapped him hard in face we ended up wrestling!!! He wanted to leave i wouldn't let him eventually he overpowered me and left!! Dont know what to do
Pixi - 22-Nov-16 @ 7:26 PM
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