Smacking law 'helped cause August riots'

David Lammy talks to Nick Clegg after a night of rioting in Tottenham.
David Lammy talks to Nick Clegg after a night of rioting in Tottenham.

By Ian Dunt

The tightening up of the law around smacking children partly contributed to the riots which hit England last summer, a local MP has claimed.

David Lammy, whose approach to the disorder in his Tottenham constituency won him plaudits across the political world, said parents were scared of social services if they disciplined their children.

"Many of my constituents came up to me after the riots and blamed the Labour government, saying: 'You guys stopped us being able to smack our children'," he told LBC radio.


"I have to say when this was first raised with me I was pretty disparaging. But I started to listen.

"These parents are scared to smack their children and paranoid that social workers will get involved and take their children away.

"The ability to exercise their own judgment in relation to discipline and reasonable chastisement has been taken away."

The law, which had previously allowed 'reasonable chastisement' and allocated decision-making to judges, was tightened up by the Children Act 2004 to prevent any smack which caused "reddening of the skin". Crucially, the decision was handed to social workers.

"The law used to allow 'reasonable chastisement', but current legislation stops actions that lead to a reddening of the skin - which for a lot of my non-white residents isn't really an issue," Mr Lammy said.

The change has led to confusion about what is legal, he added.

The MP, who admitted to smacking his own children, expanded on his support for smacking in his recent book, 'Out Of The Ashes: After The Riots'.

Many commentators have poured praise on the text, which outlines a multitude of policy responses to the riots.

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