Last updated: October 2017
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Summary of law reform necessary to achieve full prohibition

Prohibition is still to be achieved in the home, alternative care settings, day care and schools.

Article 266 of the Criminal Code 1907 confirms the right of parents, teachers and others with parental authority to use “reasonable” force “by way of correction”. This provision should be repealed, and prohibition enacted of all corporal punishment by all persons with authority over children.

Alternative care settings – Prohibition should be enacted in legislation applicable to all alternative care settings (foster care, institutions, places of safety, emergency care, etc).

Day care – Corporal punishment should be prohibited in all early childhood care (nurseries, crèches, kindergartens, preschools, family centres, etc) and all day care for older children (day centres, after-school childcare, childminding, etc).

Schools – Articles 23 and 24 of the Education Rules 2006 should be repealed and prohibition enacted in relation to all education settings, including public and private.

Legality of corporal punishment

Home

Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. Article 266 of the Criminal Code 1907 states: “Domestic and school discipline. It is lawful for a parent, or a person in the place of a parent, or for a school-master or master, to use, by way of correction towards a child, pupil, or apprentice, under his care, such force as is reasonable under the circumstances.” Children have limited protection from violence and abuse under other provisions in the Criminal Code 1907, the Children Act 1998 and the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act 1997.

In its 2014 state party report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UK Government states that it “does not condone any violence towards children and has clear laws to deal with it” but “our view is that a mild smack does not constitute violence”.[1] A similar statement was made to the Human Rights Committee in 2015.[2] The UK Government has on three occasions rejected recommendations to prohibit all corporal punishment of children made during the Universal Periodic Review of the UK (see below).

 

Alternative care settings

Corporal punishment is lawful in alternative care settings under the right to use force “by way of correction” in article 266 of the Criminal Code 1907. The Children Act 1998 governs registered children’s homes, foster care, day care and residential homes and does not prohibit corporal punishment. The UK Government has stated that corporal punishment “may not be used on any child in care, whether in a children’s home or foster care”,[3] but this appears to be as a matter of policy rather than law.

 

Day care

Corporal punishment is prohibited in day care centres in article 8 of the Day Care Centre Regulations 1999: “Discipline and guidance shall be consistent and based on an understanding of individual needs and development of a child, applying the following guidelines – (a) no child shall be subjected to physical punishment, humiliation, or verbal abuse….” But there is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in other forms of day care (early childhood and for older children), where it is lawful under the right to use force “by way of correction” in article 266 of the Criminal Code 1907. The Children Act 1998 governs registered children’s homes, foster care, day care and residential homes and does not prohibit corporal punishment.

 

Schools

Corporal punishment is lawful in schools according to the Education Rules 2006 under the Education Act 1996. Article 23(1) states: “The principal may impose immediate registerable penalties of suspension, corporal punishment or recommendation for expulsion for acts of violence or acts related to the possession, distribution or use of any controlled drug, alcohol, tobacco, knife or weapon on school premises or while in uniform on the way to or from school.” Article 24 states: “(1) Corporal punishment shall not be administered except by the principal or the deputy principal. (2) Corporal punishment shall always be administered in the presence of another staff member as a witness. (3) If the principal authorizes another teacher to administer the punishment then the principal or the deputy principal must witness the punishment. (4) A child shall not receive corporal punishment except at the hands of a member of the same sex unless, in exceptional circumstances, the Chief Education Officer authorizes a female to administer corporal punishment to a male.” Article 266 of the Criminal Code also applies (see under “Home”).

As at 2014, the Education Act and Regulations are being reviewed. In 2006, in the Policy and Procedures Manual for Teaching Staff, issued by the Ministry of Education in consultation with the Bermuda Union of Teachers, the Government confirmed that corporal punishment would be prohibited when the Education Act was reviewed (chapter. 16.5): “It is the stated policy of the Ministry that corporal punishment will be banned in the next revision of the Education Act. In the meantime the Ministry encourages Principals to avoid the use of corporal punishment.” However, the Education (Amendment) Act 2015 did not prohibit corporal punishment.

 

Penal institutions

Corporal punishment is unlawful as a disciplinary measure in penal institutions. The Abolition of Capital and Corporal Punishment Act 1999 repealed provisions for corporal punishment in the Prisons Act 1979, the Prison Rules 1980, the Senior Training School Rules 1951 and the Young Offenders Act 1950.

 

Sentence for crime

Corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited as a sentence for crime in article 3 of the Abolition of Capital and Corporal Punishment Act 1999: “With effect from the date of commencement of this Act, no person shall suffer corporal punishment as a penalty that may be imposed by a court for any offence.”

 

Universal Periodic Review of the UK’s human rights record

The UK was examined in the first cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in 2008 (session 1). The following recommendations were made:[4]

“To consider further measures in order to address the problem of violence against children, including corporal punishment. (Italy)

“To reconsider its position about the continued legality of corporal punishment against children. (Sweden)

“To consider going beyond current legislation and to ban corporal punishment, also in the private sector and in its Overseas Territories. (France)”

The Government rejected the recommendations, stating that it sees no need for law reform since it believes the current law is working well, parents should be allowed to discipline children and surveys show that the use of corporal punishment in childrearing has declined.[5] It accepted the recognition to consider going beyond current legislation in relation to protecting children from violence but rejected “the implication that it is failing in this regard through the application of its policy on corporal punishment”.[6]

Examination in the second cycle of the UPR took place in 2012 (session 13). The following recommendations were made:[7]

“Reconsider its position about the continued legality of corporal punishment of children (Sweden);

“Take measures to ensure the freedom of children from physical punishment in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Norway);

“Introduce a ban on all corporal punishment of children as recommended by the CRC and other treaty bodies (Finland)”

The Government rejected the recommendations.[8]

The UK’s third cycle examination took place in 2017 (session 27). The following recommendations were made:[9]

“In all devolved administrations, overseas territories and Crown dependencies, prohibit all corporal punishment in the family, including through the repeal of all legal defences, such as “reasonable chastisement” (Liechtenstein);

“Ensure that corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited in all schools and educational institutions and all other institutions and forms of alternative care (Liechtenstein);

“Prohibit corporal punishment in all settings, including the family (Ireland);

“Reconsider its position on the legality of corporal punishment of children (Mongolia);

“Ban corporal punishment of children to ensure the full protection and freedom from violence for all children (Sweden);

“Consider prohibiting corporal punishment against children and ensure that it is explicitly prohibited in all schools and educational institutions, and all other institutions and forms of alternative care (Croatia);

“Take further actions in protecting the rights of the child by prohibiting all corporal punishment of children as required by the convention of the Rights of Child (Estonia)”

The Government rejected all seven recommendations, stating: “the UK does not condone any violence towards children and has clear laws to deal with it. The ‘reasonable chastisement’ defence in s.58 Children Act 2004 cannot be used when someone is charged with assault causing actual or grievous bodily harm, or with child cruelty. Parents should not be criminalised for giving a child a mild smack in order to control their behaviour. The Crown Dependencies currently follow a similar approach to the UK. The decision on whether to prohibit corporal punishment and in what settings in the Overseas Territories is a decision, ultimately, for Territory governments. The UK Government is keen to support those Territories who wish to move away from the use of corporal punishment and explore alternative measures, including the development of positive parenting strategies and effective behaviour management techniques.”[10]


Prevalence/attitudinal research for Bermuda in the last 10 years

None identified.

Footnotes

[1] [2014], CRC/C/GBR/5, Fifth state party report, annex, para. 11

[2] [n.d.], CCPR/C/GBR/Q/7/Add.1, Advance Unedited Version, Reply to list of issues, para. 161

[3] Parliamentary answer to question asked by Baroness Walmsley, 19 December 2011; 27 March 2013, Reply to list of issues, para. 43.19

[4] 23 May 2008, A/HRC/8/25, Report of the working group, paras. 56(2), 56(3), 56(4) and 56(5)

[5] 23 May 2008, A/HRC/8/25, Report of the working group, para. 25

[6] 25 August 2008, A/HRC/8/25/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, paras. 28, 29 and 30

[7] 6 July 2012, A/HRC/21/9, Report of the working group, paras. 110(78), 10(79) and 110(80)

[8] 17 September 2012, A/HRC/21/9/Add.1, Report of the working group: Addendum, annex

[9] 8 May 2017, A/HRC/WG.6/27/L.7, Draft report of the working group, unedited version, paras. 6(193), 6(194), 6(195), 6(196), 6(197), 6(198) and 6(199)

[10] 7 September 2017, A/HRC/36/9/Add.1, Report of the working group: addendum, para. 3; see also 29 August 2017, Annex to the response to the recommendations received on 4 May 2017

Child population

12,341 (CIA World Factbook, 2011 est.) (0-14)

Forthcoming treaty body examinations and UPRs

Only the UN Convention Against Torture, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights apply in Bermuda.

For information on upcoming examinations for the above treaty bodies, see the UK's online country report.

Notes

Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory. As such, it has its own constitution and domestic laws and substantial responsibility for its internal affairs, including responsibility for the protection and promotion of human rights and a duty to ensure that local law complies with the relevant convention and court judgments and is non-discriminatory. The UK Government has responsibility for international relations, internal security, defence, good governance and the wellbeing of the people.

According to the UK’s 2014 Common Core Document, the following treaties apply in Bermuda: the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the UN Convention against Torture and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The European Social Charter does not apply.

For extracts from the concluding observations of treaty bodies concerning corporal punishment of children, see the downloadable country reports for Bermuda accessible via the links above or go to the UK country report

This is an automatic translation service. Extracts from laws, treaty body recommendations and Universal Periodic Review outcomes are unofficial translations.