Children’s groups call for ban on slapping following ruling

Council of Europe: Lack of clear corporal punishment ban violates rights of youth


Children’s campaigners have called for a total prohibition on corporal punishment following a ruling by the Council of Europe that the lack of a clear ban violates young people’s rights.

Europe’s top human rights body ruled yesterday that Ireland’s laws on corporal punishment were in breach of the European Social Charter, whose signatories promise “to protect children and young persons against negligence, violence or exploitation”.

The Children’s Rights Alliance, an umbrella group representing dozens of charities and campaign groups, said Ireland was “out of kilter with Europe” in permitting corporal punishment in the home.

“In recent days, the world has witnessed Ireland’s decision to introduce marriage equality and is now asking – how can children not yet have equal protection in the law?” said Tanya Ward, the alliance’s chief executive.

The Ombudsman for Children has also called for a clear prohibition on the corporal punishment of children. Dr Niall Muldoon said: “They must immediately move to bring to an end the violence against children which this defence condones and thereby allow all children the opportunity to enjoy, to the full, their right to live a life without violence.”

‘No sense’

The chief executive of the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Grainia Long, said any society that was serious about preventing child abuse and discouraging violence must recognise that a legal ban on physical punishment was required.

While legislation which allowed parents to use force against their children was repealed almost 15 years ago, the defence of “reasonable chastisement” still exists in common law for parents or child carers.

The Government had rejected suggestions that this amounted to a violation of young people’s rights. It argued that laws such as the Child Care Act, and others, banned any form of violence against children.

However, Minister for Children James Reilly pledged to ban smacking in foster or residential care in new regulations. He also announced plans to review the chastisement defence, in conjunction with the Department of Justice.