At its 114th session in June/July, the Human Rights Committee examined states on their implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Policital Rights – including on the obligation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children. The Committee made the following observation and recommendation in its concluding observations on the review of the UK:
“The Committee remains concerned that corporal punishment is still not fully outlawed in the home and certain educational and alternative care facilities in the United Kingdom and in almost all British Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories. It is further concerned about the lack of explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in the home and the existing legal defences of ‘reasonable punishment’ in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or ‘justifiable assault’ in Scotland (arts. 7 and 24).
The State party should take practical steps, including through legislative measures where appropriate, to put an end to corporal punishment in all settings, including the home, throughout United Kingdom and all Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories, and repeal all existing legal defences across the State party’s jurisdiction. It should encourage non-violent forms of discipline as alternatives to corporal punishment, and conduct public information campaigns to raise awareness about its harmful effects.”
The UK Government continues to resist removing the “reasonable punishment” and other similar defences from its laws, despite ever increasing pressure from UN and regional treaty monitoring bodies, recommendations received during the Universal Periodic Reviews of the UK’s overall human rights records, and a sustained national campaign for law reform.
- For details of the current legality of corporal punishment and the reforms necessary to achieve prohibition in the UK, see the Global Initiative’s country report for the UK.
- For information on the Overseas Territories and British Crown Dependencies, see the country reports for Anguilla, Bermuda,British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey, Montserrat, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, and Turks and Caicos Islands. Corporal punishment is prohibited in all settings in the Pitcairn Islands.
- For further information on the obligation to prohibit corporal punishment under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, see the Global Initiative’s page on the Human Rights Committee.