GBV 35

Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee

Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill : Stage 1

Response from: Rachel Matthews


I am writing with regard to the Gender-based Violence, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (Wales) Bill to urge you to remove the 'reasonable punishment' defence for physical punishment of children in Wales, and give the most vulnerable members of our society equal protection from violence as that which applies to adults.


I am the author of the "Help at Hand Toolkit" which was launched in the Senedd.  Jane Hutt, at the time Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills, wrote in her foreward:


"The Welsh Assembly Government has a clear line on physical punishment.  We believe that the physical punishment of children and young people is wrong.  Our policy is based on rights and respect.  Children have the same right not to be hit as adults."


and  "I am disappointed that so far we have not been able to persuade the UK Government to remove the legal defence of ‘reasonable punishment’, but I am sure that change will eventually come.  The Assembly Government is determined to continue pressing the case for change. "


The Assembly Government has an opportunity to enact that change now - not to renage on a stand and policies which have been in place for the best part of a decade.  Ten years in which another generation of children have no defence against being legally assaulted by their carers.  Don't let another opportunity pass you by.


 As you can imagine, I have heard every argument against legal change, or excuse for postponement.  None of them carry any weight in the light of the simple, basic fact that we say it is not OK under any circumstances to assault an adult, yet we say it is OK in certain circumstances to assault children.


I am not going to rehearse the arguments here - you can find them all in the "help at Hand Toolkit"


However, in particular, I would like to point out:






I look forward to you honouring the commitments of successive Welsh Governments, both in the spirit and the letter.