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Large rise in reports of parents smacking children in Devon and Cornwall

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: May 27, 2014

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The ages of the children involved varies, with the youngest aged two and the oldest 16.

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More than 100 parents across Devon and Cornwall have been reported to the police for smacking their child over the last five years.

Figures released following a Freedom of Information Act request reveal a dramatic rise in the number of smacking reports last year, up from 17 in 2012 to 43 in 2013.

Devon and Cornwall Police say this spike could be due to “enhanced awareness” of the issues surrounding smacking.

A search of the force’s database revealed 108 crime logs relating to a biological parent smacking a child aged 17 or under between January 2009 and February 2014.

There were 17 such reports in 2009, 14 in 2010, 16 in 2011, 17 in 2012, 43 in 2013 and one between January and March this year.

The ages of the children involved varies, with the youngest aged two and the oldest 16. More than half of the reports, 58 of the 108, were said to involve children aged between five and nine.

Police said 64 of the reports were recorded as ‘undetected’, meaning there was not enough evidence to link a suspect to the offence.

Of the 44 crimes which were investigated further, 26 offenders were cautioned and 15 were dealt with by ‘restorative justice’, whereby the offender accepts responsibility for their actions.

One was given a community sentence, one a conditional discharge and one a suspended jail term.

A police spokesman said: “The majority of these appear to be ‘non-crimes’, with only 44 having an ‘outcome’.

“However reports for the incidents have jumped in the year 2013. This can be down to factors such as enhanced awareness of such issues, which has led to increased numbers of incidents being reported. With only one in January and February of this year it may be that the reports have levelled out again.”

UK parents have not been explicitly prohibited from smacking their children, but the 2004 Children’s Act removed the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ in England and Wales for any act towards a child that leads to bruising, swelling, cuts, grazes or scratches.

Any adult found guilty of breaking the law may face up to five years in jail.

Smacking in numbers

Number of reports:

2009 - 17

2010 - 14

2011 - 16

2012 - 17

2013 - 43

2014 (January 1 to February 28) - 1

Ages of children:

2 - 8

3 - 10

4 - 5

5 - 12

6 - 15

7 - 13

8 - 7

9 - 11

10 - 7

11 - 5

12 - 5

13 - 2

14 - 4

15 - 1

16 - 3

Outcome:

Adult restorative disposal - 15

Caution - 26

Community order - 1

Conditional discharge - 1

Suspended sentence - 1

Undetected - 64

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