Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Department of Health
Section 246 of the Children's Act 2001 provides very clear legal deterrents to the use of excessive physical discipline within the home setting or otherwise.
246.-(1) It shall be an offence for any person who has custody, charge or care of a child wilfully to assault, ill-treat,neglect, abandon or expose the child, or cause or procure the child to be assaulted, ill treated, neglected, abandoned or exposed, in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to the child's health or seriously to affect his or her well-being.
A common law defence or reasonable chastisement does not apply but this has not prevented the Irish courts from handing down severe sentences in cases where parents have been accused and convicted of assault or use of excessive force.
It is important to note the valuable research emerging on this topic in Ireland. Recent research from the longitudinal study of children in Ireland shows that the great majority of parents do not use smacking as a form of discipline. The most frequently used method of discipline was "discussing / explaining why the behaviour was wrong and this discipline strategy was used by almost ninety percent of mothers (88%). Less than one percent (0.5%) of mothers reporting smacking their children "regularly or always".
The priority is to reinforce this trend and provide positive support and encouragement to good parenting. There are a range of valuable parenting programmes and support services for families throughout the country.