'Parents could face draconian penalties' under slapping ban
Published 28/05/2015 | 02:30
A law banning the slapping of children could result in "draconian penalties" for parents, a legal expert has warned.
The warning follows an EU ruling that Ireland should outlaw all corporal punishment, including parents smacking their children in the family home.
However, family law expert, Anne O'Neill, said she is concerned that some parents who are clearly not guilty of physical abuse could find themselves facing prosecutions before the courts.
This could involve "draconian penalties" for some mothers and fathers, because certain judges may impose the law with more rigour than others, she warned.
Following the EU directive, Children's Minister James Reilly said steps will be taken to ensure parents can no longer claim the right to 'reasonable chastisement' when disciplining their children.
However, Ms O'Neill warned there is a risk "righteous individuals" will feel they can report caring parents who may simply be under stress when they slap a child.
"It's a licence for social workers and others to be heavy-handed with people who are otherwise decent parents," she told the Irish Independent.
"There's enough serious abuse going on without going down that particular road."
The Cork-based solicitor warned there is a risk in "criminalising behaviour" in the absence of "criminal intention".
"There's a huge difference between slapping a child and beating a child. Personally, I don't endorse slapping or any physically violent behaviour towards children.
"But sometimes, under pressure, parents can snap and shake or hit one of their children. They don't mean to do this - but for an instant they just may be overcome with emotion."
She stressed that a comprehensive parenting programme should be introduced before any ban is implemented.