Parents have not been explicitly prohibited from smacking their children. However, section 58 of the Children Act 2004 limited the use of the defence of reasonable punishment so that parents and those acting in loco parentis who cause physical injury to their children can no longer use the ‘reasonable punishment’ defence where they are charged with assaults occasioning cruelty, actual or grievous bodily harm. The defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ is only available to parents, or others acting in loco parentis (provided they are not expressly prohibited from using physical punishment, e.g. in schools), where the charge is one of common assault.

Physical punishment is prohibited in all maintained and full-time independent schools, in children’s homes, in local authority foster homes and Early Years provision.

Section 58 Review

The then Minister for Children, during the passage of the Children Act 2004, gave a commitment that the Government would review the practical consequences of section 58 and seek parents’ views on smacking. This review was conducted in the summer of 2007 and a report on it was published in October 2007.

This report, which can be downloaded from this page, sets out the results of that exercise, during which the Government carried out a consultation, parental survey, children and young people’s survey and sought additional supporting evidence.

In response to the review the then Government decided, in the absence of evidence that the law on physical punishment was not working, that it did not need to be changed.

Physical punishment: improving consistency and protection – an independent report by Sir Roger Singleton

In early 2010 the then Secretary of State acknowledged there were concerns about the use of physical punishment by adults in various education, learning and care settings not covered by existing bans. He asked Sir Roger Singleton, the then independent Chief Adviser on Child Safety, to advise him on the issue by the end of March 2010. Sir Roger’s report, which can be downloaded from this page, was published on 30 March 2010.