12/09/2006

Smacking laws in Northern Ireland under judicial review

An attempt to force the government to make smacking children illegal in Northern Ireland has gone through the first stage of judicial review in the High Court.

Leave was granted for a judicial review of new laws which make it illegal for a parent/guardian to hit a child only if it results in lasting harm or marks.

The case was brought by Barry McNeany, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People who believes that the Government is failing in its responsibility to protect the children of Northern Ireland.

Colin Reid, policy advisor for the NSPCC stated: "The new legislation does not go far enough to protect children and we would support a call for an outright ban on physical punishment. If we are to fully protect children, we must develop a culture where they are treated equally to adults in respect of the law. Of course children need discipline, but there are ways that do not involve physical punishment which aim to promote positive parenting. Parents must be offered education and a much more extensive range of support to develop their skills in finding alternative ways to discipline children."

NICCY would like to see it made illegal for a parent to strike their child in any circumstances. The Commissioner is particularly interested in helping protect young children and babies, who cannot speak out on their own behalf.

The judicial review is being supported by the Children's Law Centre, the Parents Advice Centre and the Save the Children Fund.

They were granted leave to make written submissions to allow them to intervene during the hearing which has been adjourned until November 24.

(DS)

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