Statement by CWS Chairman Llyr Powell:
This is yet more State interference in family life. There is the question of why we need a new law in the first place. New laws are usually brought in by parliaments because existing legislation is not deemed to be working. But, while the motives of those who support a smacking ban now should not be criticised, it’s not clear what problem they have with the law as it stands.
Because it appears to have worked well. It allows “reasonable chastisement” from parents as a means of instruction, correction and discipline. But it prevents disproportionate physical punishment of children. The law also means the persons most closely connected with a child (usually the parents) are empowered to make decisions on what is in the best interests of the child. This chimes with the longstanding principle that parents, rather than the state, should have primary responsibility for their children and that intervention by the courts in family matters should be a last resort.
The UK Supreme Court has recently affirmed that approach as a fundamental aspect of human rights law, emphasising the need for “the detailed working out, for children, of the principle established in article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 23(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that ‘the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the state’”. The court added: “There is an inextricable link between the protection of the family and the protection of fundamental freedoms in liberal democracies.
I believe many parents and families across Wales will feel deeply troubled by the implications of what we are seeing. At the end of the day, the purpose of the law should not be to provide supposed clarity to strangers as a basis to interfere in other people’s family relationships.