Named Per­son and smack­ing ban leg­is­la­tion risks open­ing ma­jor can of worms

The Scotsman - - Perspective / Letters To The Editor -

I have some le­git­i­mate con­cerns re­gard­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of the pro­posed Named Per­sons leg­is­la­tion and the in­ten­tion to crim­i­nalise the smack­ing of chil­dren.

Hav­ing read about the pro­pos­als and see­ing what oth­ers have writ­ten in your letters pages, no one seems to have made any link be­tween these two rad­i­cal and un­nec­es­sary changes to leg­is­la­tion.

It seems to me that we have a recipe for dis­as­ter, and the law of un­in­tended con­se­quences comes to mind. With Named Per­sons, in ev­ery job in ev­ery walk of life there are peo­ple who will act with a great deal of zeal, oth­ers might take a more lais­sez faire at­ti­tude and those in the mid­dle will al­ways do their best. How they ap­proach their tasks will de­pend on their level of train­ing and the suc­cess of that will then de­pend on their own at­ti­tude to the is­sue un­der consideration.

As we all know, chil­dren de­velop at dif­fer­ent rates, their un­der­stand­ing of vo­cab­u­lary varies, some may be more for­ward than oth­ers, the list is end­less. Some chil­dren may be more ma­nip­u­la­tive than oth­ers, some most cer­tainly re­quire more pro­tec­tion than oth­ers.

What con­cerns me is that there is leg­is­la­tion in place now that can and does pro­tect chil­dren. Of course mis­takes will be made; that is re­gret­table but un­for­tu­nately is part of hu­man na­ture and any civilised so­ci­ety will try to en­sure that pro­cesses are fool-proof.

Some par­ents choose to chas­tise their chil­dren by a smack – cur­rent laws and pro­ce­dures should en­sure that the use of ex­cess force is iden­ti­fied and ad­dressed. Un­der the new pro­pos­als, imag­ine a child who is un­happy with a de­ci­sion made by a par­ent, eg they have had their ipad or sim­i­lar con­fis­cated. They go to school next day and tell the Named Per­son, their teacher, that they have been smacked. The Named Per­son is du­ty­bound to re­port this and a to­tally un­nec­es­sary in­ves­ti­ga­tion en­sues with po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing con­se­quences for the fam­ily.

A smack is an as­sault. The def­i­ni­tion of as­sault in­cludes un­wanted phys­i­cal con­tact with an­other. How does the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment pro­pose to en­sure that Named Per­sons un­der­stand when a line has been crossed? Is a par­ent sup­posed to stand aside whilst their child tries to do some­thing reck­less which might cause them harm and not lay hands on them? How is an uni­formed per­son to know when a par­ent is taking rea­son­able steps to re­strain a child?

These pro­pos­als are highly dan­ger­ous and present un­told op­por­tu­ni­ties for all and sundry to chal­lenge the right of par­ents to bring up their chil­dren in a way they deem fit. What makes the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment think that they know best?

L. W. TURN­BULL Ed­der­ston Road, Pee­bles

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