Today (7th September) John , Justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, has published his Member’s Bill to give children equal protection from assault.

If passed the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill will see Scotland join more than 50 other countries around the world in ensuring that children are protected from physical punishment.

A public consultation last year which ran from 11 May until 4 August and received more than 650 responses with almost 75 per cent of respondents in favour of the Bill. John earned the right to introduce a bill in October 2017 after 31 of his MSP colleagues across all five parties represented in the Parliament offered their support for the Bill’s introduction. John also received the support of the Scottish Government in its Programme for Government both last year and this year.

Supporters of the bill  included the Scottish Police Federation, Rape Crisis Scotland, Barnardo’s Scotland, the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, the Equality & Human Rights Commission, Children 1st, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Scottish Women’s Aid, the NSPCC and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland.

Mr Finnie said:

“I am delighted to be formally lodging my bill to give children equal protection from assault in the Scottish Parliament today. Children deserve the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children’s rights organisations and charities have long been arguing. Substantial academic research from around the world shows that physical punishment does not work and is shown to be counterproductive; my bill aims to support parents to make positive choices. The Bill will not change the way that Police and Social Work deal with assault against children. Rather it establishes the principle that assault can never be ‘justifiable’.

“I would like to thank again all those who responded to my consultation and to my colleagues for lending me their support to introduce this bill. I would also like to thank the clerks in the Scottish Parliament, civil servants across the Scottish Government and my own staff for their advice and support in drafting the bill and the associated documents.

“I look forward to parliament examining the bill and stand ready to make the case that providing equal protection for children and ending justifiable assault will show that Scotland really is the best place in the world to grow up.”

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council, said:

“The Church of Scotland welcomes the introduction of the Proposed Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill as an important step in ensuring that children are given the same protection as adults. It is time that we, as a society, stated clearly that physical punishment cannot be part of normal family life.”

Leading QC Janys M Scott said:

“Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights prohibits inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and that is an absolute – there are no exceptions. States have a positive duty of protection to children and it is right that Scotland is now addressing this.”

Professor Steve Turner, Officer for Scotland for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:

“I strongly believe it is not acceptable to hit a child. Physical punishment can teach a child that physical violence is part of a normal healthy lifestyle. It can increase the likelihood of that child going on to be aggressive in later life themselves, leading to a vicious cycle of physical violence, bred through generations. Physical punishment is also linked to an increase in a child’s later risk for anxiety, depression and problems with self-esteem.

“As a children’s doctor, there is nothing I want more than for children to be protected, as adults currently are, from assault. Physical punishment is counterproductive and cruel so the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill is very much welcome. With this bill, we have the opportunity to be leaders in child protection, and to show our children the respect they deserve. I now call on our neighbours in England and Northern Ireland to catch up, follow Scotland’s lead, the Welsh Government has committed to do likewise, and provide all children, regardless of where they live in the UK, with the same level of protection.”

Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland said:

“We are absolutely delighted to see the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament today. This legal change to provide children in Scotland with equal protection from physical assault within the law has been a long time coming, but in the Year of Young People this is an important moment for the rights of children.

“Through our work with children, young people and families, we know how important positive, healthy attachments and relationships are. Children’s brains develop best when they feel safe and when they are nurtured.

“We want to see a society and culture where no violence against children is acceptable and this Bill provides a clear statement of intent. We congratulate John Finnie MSP and the Scottish Green Party for driving forwards this important agenda and look forward to continuing to support the progression of this Bill”

Mary Glasgow, interim Chief Executive, Children 1st, Scotland’s national children’s charity, said: “We warmly welcome the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill which will amend the archaic law that gives children, the smallest, most vulnerable members of our society, less protection from physical harm than anybody else.

“John Finnie MSP’s Bill will ensure Scots law clearly reflects both the overwhelming scientific evidence we now have that children need to grow up with respectful,  warm and supportive relationships with the adults around them and the wide body of research which clearly confirms that physical punishment doesn’t work and can be harmful.

“John and the Green Party have led the way in progressing this important piece of legislation, which has widespread support across the Parliament and society. When it passes, the Bill will give families clarity and help achieve the ambition of making Scotland the best place for children to grow up.”

The Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland Bruce Adamson said:

“We should never consider the assault of a child for the purposes of punishment to be justifiable. I commend John Finnie for introducing his Member’s Bill to remove the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ from the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. This is long overdue – allowing the assault of children goes against the basic values that we hold in Scotland in terms of human dignity and respect for children.

“The United Nations, Council of Europe and other international human rights bodies have been unequivocal – children’s right to protection from violence and to equal protection under the law means that states must enact legislation which prohibits, without exception, all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings. Scotland is one of the last countries in Europe to amend our law to protect children, and I welcome the fact that we now have broad political support for the change.

“Removing the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ will not create a new criminal offence; most forms of physical assault against children are already against the law. This change will simply ensure that children in Scotland enjoy the same protections from violent punishment as adults.”