SMACKING children under three is set to be outlawed in Britain soon.
New laws will also make it illegal for parents to hit children of any age on the head, shake them or strike them with an implement such as a belt or slipper.
The changes, which follow a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, would still let parents smack older children, but they would severely restrict the traditional defence of reasonable chastisement against assault charges.
The European court ruled three years ago that the UK had failed to protect the human rights of a boy whose stepfather beat him with a garden cane.
The man was cleared of assault when a jury accepted that it had not been an excessive punishment. But the judges in Strasbourg decided that British courts were leaving children vulnerable to 'inhuman or degrading treatment" because of the way they interpreted reasonable chastisement.
Under the new laws no parent who smacks a child under the age of three, or hits them about the head, or smacks them with a belt or slipper will be able to claim that the action was reasonable.
In other cases courts will have to consider the sex, age and health of the child, the nature and context of the punishment, its duration and frequency and its physical and mental effects before deciding whether it can be classed as reasonable. The law will change first in Scotland, where legislation is expected to be put before the Edinburgh Parliament later this year.
But Westminster could follow suit within months. Britain's Department of Health in Whitehall is already committed to making recommendations on the law by the end of the year.
But Tory Home Office spokeswoman Ann Widdecombe signalled that there would an angry reaction from the British public.
"Any measure which prevents parents from using reasonable punishment on their children can only add to the problem of juvenile delinquency and to disruption in the classrooms," she said.
Children 1st, previously the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said it would like to see a ban on physical punishment for every child, not just those under three. The group urged officials to concentrate on helping parents discipline their children without resorting to violence.
— Daily Mail