Thursday 19 January 2017

Parents no longer let 'chastise' children by smacking

Published 11/12/2015 | 02:30

Smacking children at home. File picture (Picture posed)
Smacking children at home. File picture (Picture posed)

Parents are now effectively banned from smacking their children after the Government yesterday formally removed from law the defence of "reasonable chastisement".

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From today, any person who administers corporal punishment to a child will no longer be able to rely on such a defence in the courts.

Minister James Reilly
Minister James Reilly

Children's Minister James Reilly yesterday formally signed a commencement order for the removal of the clause from common law.

Such a move has been called for by human rights groups for many months.

Legislation which permitted parents to use force against their children was repealed almost 15 years ago but the defence of reasonable chastisement remained.

No new offence has been created that explicitly prohibits the smacking of children as a form of punishment - however, the decision to remove the defence is a significant step.

Speaking yesterday, Dr Reilly said he hopes removing the defence of reasonable chastisement will result in a "cultural change" in society.

"The removal of the Common Law defence sends a strong message which will, I hope, lead to a cultural change across Irish society that corporal punishment is wrong," Dr Reilly said.

"We have not created any new offence but rather we are removing something that has its roots in a completely different era and societal context," he added.

The Fine Gael deputy leader said the move is also important in reinforcing proper parenting practices in Ireland.

"The measure represents a significant advancement as regards the protection and rights of children. It reinforces the developing impetus in parenting practice in Ireland to use positive discipline strategies in the upbringing of children, which reject the use of corporal punishment," he added.

Earlier this year, Dr Reilly and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald reviewed the issue of reasonable chastisement following a Council of Europe ruling.

The EU body found that young people's rights were being violated as a result of a lack of a clear ban on smacking.

In a recent interview with this newspaper, Dr Reilly said that he received correspondence from the UN Secretary General on Violence Against Children, Marta Santos Pais, congratulating the Government over the decision to remove the reasonable chastisement clause.

Violence

"Political support at the highest level is critical to ensuring that sustained progress can be made in combating violence against children. The steps that Ireland has taken augur well for a change in attitudes and behaviour that will help build a culture in which no form of violence against children is acceptable," the letter stated.

Ms Pais added that "in taking this step, Ireland is making an important contribution to the global movement towards a world where all children are free from violence."

In a statement yesterday, Dr Reilly stressed the value of 'positive parenting'.

The Dublin Fingal TD said it is important that the issue of self-discipline among children is supported by a "learning strategy" rather than punishment.

"Parental and family relationships are the most important factor in child development outcomes - therefore, supporting parents and families is the best way to improve outcomes for children," Dr Reilly added.

His remarks came after the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, held a parenting conference in Dublin Castle to encourage best practice.

More details are available on the website www.parenting24seven.ie

Irish Independent

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