Sarah Stewart-Brown, Professor of Public Health at Warwick Medical School, argues that smacking is at best ineffective and at worst leads to an escalation of unwanted behaviour. Harsh physical punishment is a cause of criminality and violence, says Professor Stewart-Brown.
Health professionals will be left to cope with the consequences of the new legislation. General practitioners, paediatricians, and primary care nurses will have to adjudicate on whether a punishment has left a mark or caused mental harm. Pronouncing that it has will be tantamount to criminalising their patients or patients' parents, and saying that it has not potentially leaves a child in danger.
An outright ban on physical punishment, coupled with widespread parenting education and support of the kind proposed in the recent national service framework for children is the best long-term solution, argues Professor Stewart-Brown.