Smacking of children, even those aged under three,
is legal in Scotland despite UN criticism.
- UN to report on lack of outright smacking ban in Scotland
- Existing legislation bans use of implements such as cane or slipper
- Executive confirmed there were no plans for further legislation
Key quote"The Executive banned smacking using implements but you can still chastise your child with physical punishment in Scotland. This is against the UN convention" - DOUGLAS HAMILTON, SAVE THE CHILDREN
Story in full A POWERFUL UN watchdog is preparing a report that will criticise the Scottish Executive for its failure to outlaw the smacking of children.
The Scotsman has learned that ministers will face a damning submission from the UN committee on the rights of the child over its refusal to ban smacking despite pressure from more than 60 UK organisations.
It comes five years after the same body urged them to act swiftly on the issue.
Scotland's children's tsar is set to embarrass the Executive further by writing to the UN committee expressing her concern at the Executive's failure to push the current legislation further.
Kathleen Marshall, Scotland's commissioner for children and young people, is an outspoken critic of the practice and has called for a ban.
She told The Scotsman: "The UN committee has been quite clear that no form of smacking or hitting should remain acceptable under the law. I have already been in communication with the Scottish Executive about some areas of concern."
Charities fear Scotland will be disgraced on the world stage for its inaction, since Britain has signed up to the UN convention on the rights of the child.
The law in England and Wales is stricter on smacking. Adults who smack children so hard it leaves a mark face up to five years in jail under laws which came into force in 2005. Mild smacking is allowed but any punishment which causes bruising, grazes, scratches, swellings or cuts can face legal action.
The Scottish Executive stopped short of an outright ban on smacking in 2003, leaving ministers at odds with the UN and a number of countries.
Under the original terms of the Executive's Criminal Justice Bill, it would have been an offence to smack children under the age of three, or hit those of any age with an "implement" such as a belt, slipper or cane. The proposals on using an implement were adopted, but the smacking ban on under-threes was dropped after a Holyrood committee rejected it.
Last night, Douglas Hamilton, head of policy and research with Save the Children UK, said ministers had failed on the issue.
"The Executive banned smacking using implements but you can still chastise your child with physical punishment in Scotland. This is against the UN convention," he said.
In October 2002, the UN recommended a ban on smacking, describing it as "a serious violation of the dignity of the child". But The Scotsman has learned that in a draft report by the Scottish Executive, to be presented to the UN this year, it has conceded that no further action will be taken in Scotland.
The UN committee's last report said it was "deeply worried" that the UK courts let parents inflict "reasonable chastisement". And in the past few years courts have acquitted parents who have admitted using canes, belts and electric flexes to beat their children.
In 1996, a teacher was taken to court for hitting his 12-year-old son, but the case was dropped when the boy decided not to give evidence.
A study supported by the Department of Health showed nine in ten children had been hit and almost a quarter of seven-year-olds had experienced "severe punishment" by their mothers.
Scottish and English ministers are assessed by the UN, following the UK's ratification of the convention on the rights of the child in 1991.
Representatives from the UK and Scottish governments are expected to meet the examining committee in Geneva later this year to defend their record.
A spokesman for the Executive confirmed there were no plans for further legislation.
CHILDREN AND CRIME
ASIDE from the issue of smacking, the UN is also concerned that the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland - eight years old - is too low. This is two years younger than the rest of the UK. In Canada it is 12 years; 13 in France; 14 in Germany, Russia and Japan.
Children's tsar Kathleen Marshall is due to raise the issue in her report to the UN.
In some countries, children are not dealt with by the courts until they are 16.