Finnie welcomes widespread support for equal protection bill

SCOTTISH GREENS SPOKESMAN on Justice, John Finnie MSP, has welcomed the ‘overwhelming support’ he has for his proposed members’ bill to give children equal protection from assault.

The Highlands and Island MSP (including Moray) sparked a three-month public consultation on removing the defence of “justifiable assault” of children from Scots law, giving them the same protection as adults.

That has resulted in more than 650 responses from individuals and organisations with almost 75% of respondents supportive. All responses from those happy to be published have been placed online. A number of high profile organisations offered their support to the proposal.

That has come from the Scottish Police Federation who said: “Child Protection forms a significant part of the Police Service of Scotland’s work and there are therefore extensive resources deployed to this area of policing across all geographical areas of Scotland.

“The Bill will provide greater protection to our children and convey to society that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable. In the longer term, evidence suggests that it may reduce violence and bullying on and by our children.”

Rape Crisis Scotland also fully supported the proposal, with their response saying: “Legal reform sends a very clear message and promotes cultural change to end the use of physical punishment in Scotland.

“Giving children full protection against assault will send a clear message to all of us about how we treat each other as human beings, and underpin Scotland’s efforts to reduce violence across the whole of society.

“Without legal reform, some children will have less protection from violence and assault than others, depending on whether their parents use physical punishment. Given the irrefutable evidence that physical punishment is harmful, it is not acceptable to wait for every parent’s approach to catch up with the evidence, before introducing legal reform.

“This is particularly important because in the absence of clear messaging from the Scottish Government some parents may not even be aware of the evidence.”

Mr Finnie said: “I am grateful to all organisations and individuals that contributed to the consultation. It is clear from the responses that there is overwhelming support for the proposal.

“There is widespread recognition that children should receive the same legal protection from assault that adults enjoy, a position that children’s rights organisations and charities have been arguing for some time.

“It is also clear from all the available research that the status quo can be damaging to children and must not be allowed to continue.

“I will now work with the Scottish Parliament’s Non-Governmental Bills Unit over the coming weeks to thoroughly analyse each response.”