Consultation launched on #equalprotection of children in Scotland

12 May 2017

The Commissioner has lent his support to a consultation launched in the Scottish Parliament today around whether children should have equal protection to adults under Scots law.

The consultation, which has been launched by John Finnie MSP, seeks views on the removal of a justifiable assault defence in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003.

This defence allows parents to physically punish their children as long as they don’t hit them around the head, use an implement or shake them.

The existence of the defence means that children and young people currently have less protection from assault under Scots Law than any other group.

The consultation runs over 12 weeks, and submissions from members of the public are welcomed.

Access a paper version of the consultation on the Scottish Parliament website.

Access an online version of the consultation.

The Commissioner's comments

Last month, outgoing Commissioner Tam Baillie said his greatest regret about his time in his role was that legislative change around equal protection had not taken place in Scotland.

Speaking on the consultation, the Commissioner said:

“The launch of John Finnie’s consultation is a positive step towards providing children with equal protection from assault in Scots law.
“It is hard to believe that our legal system continues to provide a defence of ‘justifiable assault’. For me, there is no such thing— because there is no way we can ever justify the hitting of a child.
“Research evidence is clear that physical punishment, no matter how ‘light’, has the potential to damage children. It also shows a clear link between the use of physical punishment and an escalation into more abusive behaviours.
“This consultation is about taking the overwhelming evidence of harm caused by physical punishment and using it to bring about change that benefits both children and parents. My hope is for people across Scotland to engage in this consultation, not only as a means of making their views heard in Parliament, but also as a way of starting important conversations within families and at home.
“We need to live in a country that treats children with equity and fairness. Our children have the right to the same protection from assault as adults, and – in 2017 – surely that is just common sense?”

Access our work on equal protection.