Chris Grayling defends child smacking

Chris Grayling Chris Grayling says that the smacking of children for discipline is something to be done "occasionally"

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Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says he smacked his own children when they were young and has defended the right of parents to smack.

The Conservative minister, who has two grown-up children, told the Mail on Sunday smacking young children sometimes "sends a message".

He said it was to be used occasionally but he did not hanker for when children were "severely beaten at school".

He also spoke about prisons, saying they should be "Spartan but humane."

Parents in the UK are not explicitly banned from smacking their children.

But the 2004 Children's Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales for any child punishment that caused such injuries as bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.

Similar laws exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Mr Grayling, who is MP for Epsom and Ewell, told the paper: "You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me," he said.

"I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally.

"Sometimes it sends a message - but I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school."

Child smacking and the law

  • UK parents have not been explicitly prohibited from smacking their children.
  • The 2004 Children's Act removed the defence of "reasonable chastisement" in England and Wales for any punishment towards a child that leads to bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.
  • Any adult found guilty of breaking the law may face up to five years in jail.
  • Similar laws exists in Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • Physical punishment is prohibited in all maintained and full-time independent schools, in children's homes, in local authority foster homes and Early Years provision.

A spokeswoman for the children's charity, the NSPCC, said: "Whilst parents are currently allowed to smack their children, the evidence is continuing to build that it is ineffective and harmful to children.

"There are more positive ways to discipline children and a clear message that hitting anyone is not right would benefit all of society."

Asked about prisons, Mr Grayling said he wanted them to be "Spartan, but humane, a place people don't have a particular desire to come back to".

He said it was not "reasonable for prisoners to enjoy things that those outside on low incomes would struggle to have".

"My idea of prison is not sitting watching the Sky Sports Sunday match."

He said having access to a TV should be a privilege that is earned and he did not approve of prisons buying "state-of-the-art" kit when most people outside of prison had to make sacrifices to buy them.

Mr Grayling also said he would not tolerate gay couples sharing a prison cell.

"It is not acceptable to allow same-sex couples to effectively move in together and live a domestic life," he said.

"If such a thing happened, I would want those prisoners put in separate prisons."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    If you cannot find another way of making sure that a child knows that its behaviour is wrong, then we're out of hope. Violence continues into adulthood, because too many children don't know better. Shame on you mr bully minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 551.

    As a primary school teacher I deal with behaviour issues every working day.
    I have never had to resort to physical abuse of a child. I am grateful that I am able to control myself and model to the children how they should behave.

    Children in my class make mistakes - but none so great as to warrant physical abuse. I make sure that violence is not a lesson that they learn from me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    I believe a smack is justified ONLY if a child has physically harmed someone, or threatened to do so. I was smacked at school for not being able to touch my toes in PE, and also by a member of my family after I had exhibited difficult - but not violent - behaviour induced by stress. I have always been introspective, and that hard smack - on the bare forearms - mentally scarred me for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    I sent my naughty child to bed. She stomped off shouting and slammed the door, which earned her a week of no laptop. This resulted in her screaming for several minutes, during which time she was asked/told several times to stop and the laptop ban went to two weeks.

    In the end a single slap to her bottom was what stopped the tantrum.

    It was my last resort. Sometimes it's what's needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 382.

    Corporal punishment is just a form of physical abuse. Most civilized countries have made it illegal, but as usual the UK and to a greater extent the US are lagging behind.

    Imagine if you messed up at work and your manager beat you!

    Somehow because they are kids that makes it okay to hit them.


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