European Committee of Social Rights: Ireland


(January 2012, Conclusions 2011)

"In its previous conclusion the Committee noted that by the common law immunity parents and other persons in loco parentis could use reasonable and moderate chastisement in the correction of their children. It asked whether the Government intended to remove this immunity and prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children.

"In this connection it notes from the report that a prohibition in legislation of corporal punishment within the family has not been brought forward to date. It is the Government’s view that there is a balance to be found in trying to dissuade parents from using physical chastisement, supporting them in effective parenting versus criminalising parents who smack their children.

"The Committee notes from the report of the Commissioner that while corporal punishment in Ireland is prohibited for children in detention and schools as well as all places where a child is in public care, and violence against children is prohibited under the Children Act 2001, parents can still use chastisement under common law. The Committee notes from another source that corporal punishment is lawful in the home. The common law right to use ‘reasonable and moderate chastisement’ in disciplining children was confirmed in Section 37 of the Children Act (1908). The Children Act (2001) repealed Section 37, but removal of the common law defence requires an explicit provision in addition to this repeal. The Government has given a long term commitment to prohibition, but has given no indication of timing.

"In its decision in complaint World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) v. Ireland Complaint No 18/2003, decision on the merits of 7 December 2004 the Committee observed that the corporal punishment of children within the home was permitted in Ireland by virtue of the existence of the common law defence of reasonable chastisement. Although the criminal law protected children from very serious violence within the home, it remained the fact that certain forms of violence are permitted. The Committee therefore held that the situation was in violation of Article 17 of the Charter.

"The Committee considers that the situation has not been remedied. Therefore it reiterates it finding of non-conformity on the ground that corporal punishment is not explicitly prohibited in the home.

"The Committee concludes that the situation in Ireland is not in conformity with Article 17§1 of the Charter on the grounds that: …

- corporal punishment of children is not explicitly prohibited in the home."

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(10 January 2001, Second Addendum to Conclusions XV-2, pages 33-37)

"The corporal punishment of children in schools is prohibited. The Committee wishes to know whether corporal punishment is prohibited in institutions caring for children.

"There is a common law immunity, which permits parents and other persons in loco parentis to use reasonable and moderate chastisement in the correction of their children. The Committee refers to its general observations on Article 17 in the General introduction on this issue. It decides to defer its conclusion on this point pending information as to whether the Government intends to remove this immunity and prohibit all corporal punishment of children….

"The Committee defers its conclusion pending information requested on corporal punishment…."

Read more from 2001
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