European Committee of Social Rights: UK


(January 2016, Conclusions 2015)

“In its previous conclusion (Conclusions 2011) the Committee found that the situation was not in conformity with the Charter as not all forms of corporal punishment were explicitly prohibited in the home.

“According to the report, the Government’s position is unchanged. The Government takes the view that it should not be a crime for parents to give their children a mild smack. The law in Northern Ireland on the physical punishment of children is based on the concept of ‘reasonable chastisement’. If a parent or adult smacks a child and is prosecuted, they can defend themselves in terms of reasonable chastisement but only if the harm is minor.

“In interpreting Article 17 of the Charter, the Committee has held that the prohibition of any form of corporal punishment of children is an important measure that avoids discussions and concerns as to where the borderline would be between what might be acceptable form of corporal punishment and what is not (General Introduction to Conclusions XV-2). The Committee recalls its interpretation of Article 17 of the Charter as regards the corporal punishment of children laid down most recently in its decision in World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) v. Portugal (Complaint No. 34/2006, decision on the merits of 5 December 2006; §§19-21):

“To comply with Article 17, states’ domestic law must prohibit and penalize all forms of violence against children, that is acts or behaviour likely to affect the physical integrity, dignity, development or psychological well-being of children.

The relevant provisions must be sufficiently clear, binding and precise, so as to preclude the courts from refusing to apply them to violence against children.

Moreover, states must act with due diligence to ensure that such violence is eliminated in practice.”

“The Charter contains comprehensive provisions protecting the fundamental rights and human dignity of children – that is persons aged under 18 (Defence for Children International v. the Netherlands, Complaint No. 47/2008, decision on the merits of 20 October 2009, §§ 25-26). It enhances the European Convention on Human Rights in this regard. It also reflects the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, on which in particular Article 17 is based.

“The Committee has noted that there is now a wide consensus at both the European and international level among human rights bodies that the corporal punishment of children should be expressly and comprehensively prohibited in law. The Committee refers, in particular, in this respect to the General Comments Nos. 8 and 13 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (Complaint No 93/2013 Association for the Protection of All Children (APPROACH) v. Ireland , decision on the merits of 2 December 2014, §§45-47).

“The Committee considers that the situation which it has previously found not to be in conformity with the Charter has not changed. Therefore, it reiterates its previous finding of non-conformity on the ground that not all forms of corporal punishment of children are prohibited in the home.”

“The Committee concludes that the situation in United Kingdom is not in conformity with Article 17 of the 1961 Charter on the grounds that:

  • not all forms of corporal punishment are prohibited in the home…”

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