Guidance says assaulting children should lead to jail

Most assaults on children should lead to custodial sentences according to new sentencing guidance, but this should not include isolated heavy-handed smacks.

The proposed guidance states that adults who are found to have smacked a child too hard should be sentenced on the same principles as other kinds of assaults but that isolated unlawful smacks should not lead to jail.

The document, which was produced by the Sentencing Advisory Panel, goes on to recognise that in some cases offenders may be found to have used a level of force which exceeded lawful chastisement but to have had a genuine belief that it was a legitimate form of punishment.

The degree of harm and the impact on the victim are cited as key factors in assessing the seriousness of an offence and working out the appropriate sentence.

The Children Act 2004 allows mild smacking but outlaws any punishment that causes visible bruising.

The consultation closes in November.

Consultation paper on assaults and other offences against the person from:

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