Information

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Smacking and children

Physical punishment or physical discipline can take many forms. It includes but is not limited to:

  • smacking
  • skelping
  • spanking
  • slapping

If a parent or carer uses physical punishment or physical discipline on their child, they can be charged with assault.

Smacking and the law

Warning
All forms of physical punishment of children are against the law in Scotland. Children have the same legal protection from assault as adults.

A change in the law has removed the use of 'reasonable chastisement' as a defence against an assault charge. A parent or carer charged with assaulting a child could sometimes use this defence in court.

Using physical punishment or physical discipline before 7 November 2020

The police can charge a parent or carer with assault against a child. Parents or carers charged with assault might be able to use the defence of 'reasonable chastisement'.

Using physical punishment or physical discipline on or after 7 November 2020

The police can charge a parent or carer with assault against a child. Parents or carers charged with assault cannot use the defence of 'reasonable chastisement'.

The law change is part of the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019. The Act does not introduce a new offence. It removes a defence to the existing offence of assault. You can read more about the background to the Act on gov.scot.

Support for parents and carers

Find information on behaviour and coping with being a parent on the ParentClub website.

The Family Support Directory has information for parents and carers about organisations, benefits and other sources of support.

If you need to talk to someone for free, you can either:

Support for children and young people

If you're worried about something it can be good to talk.

You can talk to an adult that you trust.

That person might be a parent, carer or someone else in your family. Or they might be a teacher, nurse or police officer.

You can also call Childline for free on 0800 1111.

If you see someone physically punishing their child

You can call the police on 101 if you think a crime has been committed.

You can also contact your local council if you think a child is at risk of harm from physical punishment.

Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 to report a crime and stay anonymous. They can pass information about crimes to the police.

As always, if a child or young person is in immediate danger for any reason, call 999.

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