Law change plea after smacking trial

Children’s charities have called for clarification of the law after a father was convicted of assault for smacking his daughter.

The 48-year-old Scottish teacher was found to have gone beyond the bounds of “reasonable chastisement” when he smacked her on the buttocks in a health centre because she refused to have her tooth extracted.

But while the man, who now faces the sack, expressed regret, he said he hoped his case would act as a warning to other parents.

He added that he was a “conscientious father, a very good father”.

In response to the case, some charities have called for a review of the Children and Young Persons (Scotland) Act 1937.

Scottish law says any pain inflicted must not last “more than a short time” but the charities argue this is open to interpretation.

Rachel Hodgkin, from EPOC, which campaigns for an end to the corporal punishment of children, said that “while there is no law which states that children can’t be assaulted, we’re going to have cases such as these”.

Anne Stafford, of Children First, said the charity had been pushing for some time for the law to make clear “what actually constitutes an offence”.

Heather Walker, of Children in Scotland, which opposes the smacking of children, agreed.

“We don’t believe that every parent who smacks a child should be taken to court,” she said. “But parents should know in advance that they shouldn’t be smacking children.

But Tino Ferrie, of teaching union NAS/UWT, said parents are dealing with the issue of disciplining their children “every single day” and were capable of knowing where to draw the line.

However, he accepted the court’s finding that the use of force by the teacher was excessive.

Ian Miller is the senior official at the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration, which is responsible for hearings involving children. He said there is “almost always a better way of dealing with a parenting difficulty than resorting to violence”.

But not everyone felt the law should be altered. Valerie Riches, director of Family and Youth Concern, said laws to ban corporal punishment would be “very bad news for ordinary parents”.

She said: “It would make parents who just give an ordinary smack to their children for bad behaviour subject to criminal assault.”

A North Lanarkshire Council spokesman confirmed the man had been suspended from his job and said a decision on his future would be taken by the General Teaching Council of Scotland.

Sheriff Dan Russell deferred sentence until 9 June for reports.