Is it time to ban smacking children in the Isle of Man?

Government keeping an ‘open mind’ on legislation

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Tuesday 5th April 2022 3:59 pm
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Justice and Home Affairs Minister Jane Poole-Wilson has said the department is keeping an ‘open mind’ about changing legislation that allows parents to smack their children.

Wales brought in new legislation on March 21 that made all types of physical punishment against children illegal.

Physical punishment can include smacking, hitting, slapping, and shaking but it also includes anything where a child is punished using physical force.

The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020 applies to anyone with responsibility for a child, even if it’s someone caring for a child while their parents or guardian are absent, and also applies to those who are visiting Wales.

Scotland had already introduced it which means anyone who physically punishes a child is at risk of arrest and being charged with assault.

The same applies for anyone visiting Scotland, as it does in Wales.

However, in the Isle of Man, the ‘reasonable punishment’ exemption still applies, so anyone who smacks a child can use this legal defence.

Though the exemption, laid out in Section 58 of the Children Act 2004, exists in law, it doesn’t mean the crime hasn’t been committed.

Whether a smack amounts to reasonable punishment will depend on the circumstances of each case.

Mrs Poole-Wilson said: ‘Our focus at the moment is on implementing new legislation regarding domestic abuse, sexual offences and justice reform.

‘And whilst this was not an issue debated or raised to my knowledge during the recent election, as minister I will keep an open mind and listen to both safeguarding professionals and voices in wider society.’

The Department of Home Affairs added that in the island any assault of a child under 16 is illegal under the Children and Young Persons Act 1966 and the Criminal Code 1872, ‘with a broad range of injuries covered under “assault”’.

These include direct physical harm, such as bruising, cuts or swelling, as well as mental and emotional abuse.

It said in a statement: ‘The Department of Home Affairs follows advice and information provided by the Isle of Man Safeguarding Board and other safeguarding professionals, and will continue to monitor developments in Wales and how these are applied in practice.

‘The department continues to work towards the introduction of appropriate and modern legislation in order to protect all members of our community, including the Domestic Abuse and Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Acts which will help to prevent harm caused to children.’

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