THIS week saw the latest evidence session on the proposed smacking ban in Wales. Again it didn’t disappoint, as yet more evidence emerged about the crazy and disproportionate effects the change would have on children, their parents and even the police.
A joint submission by groups representing the police (the Welsh Chief Officer Group and All Wales Policing Group), reveals that children could be removed from their families following a prosecution for smacking.
It says: ‘In terms of Adverse Childhood Experiences it is our view that the implementation team should consider that in some cases the evidence of a child against their parent would be needed to support and proceed with a prosecution. In these cases, to prevent interference with the prosecution and as part of a safeguarding measure, the child or parent would not be able to reside together.’
The police groups go on to warn that ‘the impact (emotionally) that the removal of a parent(s) from a family setting may have on the child should not be underestimated.’
The submission continues: ‘Consideration is needed . . . with regards to how a visitor from England would be made aware that the defence for reasonable chastisement does not exist in Wales when it does in England. To contextualise this, during summer months areas of Wales experience an influx of tourists.
‘During their stay in Wales, they may “reasonably chastise” their child to the degree afforded by law in England.’
Jeff Cuthbert, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent, told the BBC: ‘We need to make sure the Welsh Government in the development of this legislation understand the issues involved, what the practical difficulties in policing could be.’
Matt Jukes, chief constable of South Wales Police, said forces would need more resources or it would affect other areas of policing.
This follows revelations last month that there could be hundreds of additional investigations and crimes once a ban is introduced. In evidence submitted by the Police Liaison Unit (PLU), as many as 1,370 new smacking crimes could be recorded in five years if the reasonable chastisement defence is removed. The law, reviewed just a few years ago, currently allows parents to use a light smack.
Official correspondence also implied that thousands more could have their names recorded on the National Law Enforcement database following reports of smacking, potentially blacklisting them from working with young people and vulnerable adults even if they were doctors, nurses or teachers.
A letter from Welsh Children’s Minister Julie Morgan confirmed that information about parents who are suspected of smacking, or where the police decide not to take any action, will still have their details recorded on the police database.
It went on: ‘Removing the defence of reasonable punishment in Wales does not create a new offence; the offence of common assault already exists in common law across England and Wales, therefore it should be possible to report incidents of common assault against children, either as conviction information (e.g. if a caution has been accepted by the perpetrator) or as non-conviction information.’
Non-conviction information, or ‘intelligence’, includes allegations made against a person that did not result in any arrest being made, and concerns passed on to the police from other public bodies (i.e. schools or social services).
These developments follow news that the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) Cymru, no less, said the ban could have a ‘devastating’ effect on children’s services, which are ‘already struggling to cope in almost every area’. This was a frank omission from a group who still felt the need to say they support the policy in principle.
And the cost of this so-called ‘progressive’ policy? At least £3.3million, which includes £980,000 for the criminal justice system and police. There is no figure for the cost of picking up the pieces once a family has been broken up because of the draft legislation or the cost of supporting people who might lose their jobs.
Given the weight of evidence against this policy, readers of TCW might be surprised that the Welsh Government continues to press ahead with the legislation. But the usual suspects, those politicians who sneer at traditional families, their beliefs and values, claim the policy is progressive and will cut child abuse; this more of an article of faith as it is not supported by any evidence.
The warning from the police is clear and supported by what has happened in places such as New Zealand – splitting up families and locking up loving parents for disciplining their children will do little but destroy lives. Surely this should be enough reason for the Welsh Assembly to kick out these proposals?