Beating Children Is Never Right

No. 35 of #50cases

It’s fine to give naughty children a smack, right?

Andy (not his real name) was brought up by his mother and stepfather. Aged nine, he told his school teacher his stepfather had been hitting him with a cane. Andy was examined by a doctor. He had bruises clearly showing he had been beaten several times. The stepfather was arrested. In English law parents and step parents are not guilty of a crime for hitting their child if they can show it was reasonable to do so. In court, the stepfather did not deny beating his stepson but argued it had been necessary to discipline the little boy. Applying the English law, he was found not guilty.

Andy took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, saying his human right not to be tortured or inhumanely treated had been violated. In 1998, the Court agreed with him. The judges said English law did not protect children. The law was changed so that it will always be a crime to hit children, if it causes any damage – for example, breaking of the skin or leaving a lasting red mark.

Go for positive reinforcement, it’s more effective.

This story is a short summary of a legal decision. You can read the full text here

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