Commissioner welcomes broad political support for equal protection as Member’s Bill lodged in Parliament

07 September 2018

Commissioner Bruce Adamson has welcomed today’s publication of John Finnie MSP’s Member’s Bill to give children equal protection from assault.

The Commissioner has been clear that Scotland’s current legislation is untenable in international human rights terms.

And while welcoming the Member’s Bill, he reiterated that allowing the assault of children goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.

If passed, the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill will see Scotland join more than 50 other countries around the world in ensuring that children are protected from physical punishment.

A public consultation last year received more than 650 responses, with almost 75 per cent in favour of the Bill.

Mr Finnie earned the right to introduce a bill in October 2017 after 31 of his MSP colleagues across all five parties represented in Parliament offered their support for the Bill’s introduction.

He also received the support of the Scottish Government in its Programme for Government both last year and this year.

The Commissioner said:

“We should never consider the assault of a child for the purposes of punishment to be justifiable. I commend John Finnie for introducing his Member’s Bill to remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is long overdue - allowing the assault of children goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.
“The United Nations, Council of Europe and other international human rights bodies have been unequivocal – children’s right to protection from violence and to equal protection under the law means that states must enact legislation which prohibits, without exception, all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings. Scotland is one of the last countries in Europe to amend our law to protect children, and I welcome the fact that we now have broad political support for the change.
“Removing the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ will not create a new criminal offence; most forms of physical assault against children are already against the law. This change will simply ensure that children in Scotland enjoy the same protections from violent punishment as adults.”

Find out more

Learn about why physical assault of a child is untenable in human rights terms.