On 28 January 2020, the Welsh National Assembly passed the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act and achieved equal protection from assault for children. The Act repeals the common law defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ and states that:
… corporal punishment of a child taking place in Wales cannot be justified in any civil or criminal proceedings on the ground that it constituted reasonable punishment.”
The Act also amends the Children Act 2004 accordingly, though the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ in section 58 of the Children Act will still apply in England. With this clear and explicit repeal of the defence, criminal laws against assault in Wales will apply equally to children as they do to adults, providing children with protection from all corporal punishment in all settings. The Act must now receive Royal Assent, with the ban then coming into force two years later.
Other sections in the Act put a duty on the Welsh Government to promote public awareness and to report on the effects of the ban three and five years after it comes into force. A Strategic Implementation Group has already started work, focusing on awareness-raising, data collection and monitoring, parenting support, guidance and training for professionals and diversion procedures. The Government has committed to spending £2.2 million on a six-year awareness-raising campaign on the ban.
The Global Initiative warmly welcomes the adoption of the Act and the work around its implementation, and is very proud to have supported the campaigners in Wales through their years of hard work. Successive Welsh Governments had for years committed to prohibiting all corporal punishment and it was finally introduced by Julie Morgan AM, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, who has herself campaigned for years to see this reform through. With this reform, Wales becomes the second UK nation to guarantee children equal protection from assault.
There is still more work to be done in the UK, as England and Northern Ireland have not yet complied with their human rights obligation to prohibit all corporal punishment of children. A total of 141 states worldwide are yet to achieve this crucial step, including 63 which have inherited defences of ‘reasonable punishment’ or similar from England’s colonial influence. This reform within the UK itself, on the heels of the bans in Scotland in October 2019 and in the British Crown Dependency of Jersey in December 2019, marks a tidal change in the legal traditions of common law which we hope to see ripple through the world over the coming years.
- Find out more information on Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom in our detailed report
- Read about the progress in Europe and Central Asia on our regional page
- See the latest facts and figures on global progress towards prohibition on our countdown page
- Donate here to help us end corporal punishment of children or look up how to get involved to learn about more ways you can support the campaign