Scotland influencing – Equal Protection

Barnardo's Scotland has campaigned for many years for children to have Equal Protection from physical assault within the law.

This is why we supported John Finnie MSPs’ Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Bill, which we helped to introduce and which successfully passed Stage 3 in the Scottish Parliament on the 3rd of October 2019. The Bill reached Royal Assent and became an Act on 8th November 2019.

Scotland cannot be thought of as the best place in the world for children to grow up while our law gives children less protection from assault than anybody else in society.

John Finnie

Member of Scottish Parliament

Before this Act, children in Scotland had less protection from physical assault than adults within the law. Section 51 of the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003 allowed for the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ of a child, where a person can claim that something done to a child was a physical punishment carried out in exercise of a parental right.

The new Act repeals Section 51, which has the effect of ensuring there are no legal loopholes to allow for any violence against children. 

Through our work with children, young people and families, we know how important positive, healthy attachments are for children. Children’s brains develop best when they feel safe and when they are nurtured. We want to see a society and a culture where no violence against children is acceptable.

This is why we campaigned for the removal of the defence of ‘justifiable assault’ and for Equal Protection from assault for children within the Scots law. We were delighted to see the Scottish Parliament pass this important piece of legislation and for it to become law, we hope to see other nations in the UK follow suit.