England and Northern Ireland must follow suit in making physical punishment against children illegal, says the BMA

Press release from the BMA

Location: England UK
Last reviewed: 22 March 2022

Responding to news that physical punishment against children is now illegal in Wales, Dr Penelope Toff, chair of the BMA’s public health medicine committee, said:

“The evidence shows that using physical force as a punishment to discipline children poses a serious risk to children’s health, wellbeing, and general development and there are much better ways to guide children to become responsible adults.

“Removing the justification for physical assault against a child, in the name of ‘punishment’, as has now become law in Wales and previously in Scotland, is absolutely the right thing to do and something that must be adopted across the rest of the UK.

“It is clearly unacceptable that children in England and Northern Ireland are not protected by similar legislation and we urge the Governments in those nations to do all they can to bring this about as soon as possible, as agreed by BMA UK Council.

"Experience in the many other countries where this is law, is that this has not resulted in an increase in prosecution of parents. Making such acts illegal can highlight where there is a need for better support services for both children and parents.  

“Putting children on an equal footing with adults, with full legal protection from physical assault is something every child - regardless of where they live - should be entitled to.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.