Senator who spearheaded Irish child smacking ban encourages Scotland to follow suit

Jillian van Tanhout
Jillian van Turnhout
(Photo by Graham Butler,
CC BY-SA 2.0)

A former senator who successfully introduced Ireland’s ban on child smacking encouraged Scottish legislators to follow suit at a meeting at Holyrood this morning.

Jillian van Turnhout, who introduced the bill which became the Children First Act 2015 during her time as an Independent Senator, was invited to address the devolved legislature’s equalities and human rights committee alongside other law and human rights experts.

The Children First Act 2015, which commenced in December 2015, scrapped “reasonable chastisement” as a common law defence for assaulting a child in Ireland.

The same defence continues to exist in Scots law, but MSPs are currently considering the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, which would scrap it.

In a statement issued at the time the Irish ban was introduced, Ms van Turnhout said: “The defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ is not an Irish invention; it came to us from English common law. Through its colonial past, England has been responsible for rooting this legal defence in over 70 countries and territories throughout the world.

“In this action being taken today, the government is putting children first and providing leadership that will hopefully give confidence to other countries across the globe, including our nearest neighbours, to protect children from violence.”

Lawyers, including Michael Sheridan and MSP Gordon Lindhurst, have expressed misgivings about the legislation.

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