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Teacher who smacked his child faces second trial

THE North Lanarkshire primary teacher convicted last week of going beyond "reasonable chastisement" in spanking his daughter will now have to wait to hear what action the General Teaching Council will take.

The 48-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of causing his eight-year-old daughter "unnecessary suffering" by hitting her six or seven times on her bare bottom. The incident took place after she became hysterical during a visit to the dentist on Christmas Eve.

Sentence was deferred until June 9 for social inquiry reports. Although the verdict from Sheriff Dan Russell at Hamilton sheriff court was welcomed by children's rights campaigners, teachers' leaders were unhappy.

Informed speculation suggests the man is highly unlikely to be struck from the GTC register and lose his job.

Children's organisations used the case to step up their demands for greater clarity in the law. Children First suggests it is inconsistently applied by sheriffs.

Coincidentally, ministers are being forced to reconsider the issue after the European Court of Human Rights ordered the UK Government last September to pay pound;30,000 to a boy who was caned by his stepfather at the age of nine. The court said corporal punishment was "inhuman and degrading treatment" and outlawed by article three of the human rights convention.

An interdepartmental working group, which so far includes the Scottish Office, has been set up to consider how to respond to the judgment. Holyrood ministers have yet to decide whether any decision should be UK-wide or a separate matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Tino Ferri, UK executive member of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said teachers should be treated like everybody else, "but I just wish that teachers who are the subject of assaults in the course of their work would get the same publicity as in this case".

Mr Ferri added: "There is an assumption that a teacher would take such behaviour into the classroom, which is nonsense. There are many teachers who smack or chastise their own children and simply wouldn't dream of doing the same thing to other people's children."

But Pauline Thompson of Scottish People Against Child Abuse said someone in a caring profession "should be understanding and more tolerant of the fears and feelings of children".

Children in Scotland said an outright ban on smacking would be much clearer than a defence of "reasonable chastisement" which, if perpetrated by one adult on another, would constitute assault.

Save the Children Scotland said all corporal punishment on children was an infringement of their rights. Barnardos Scotland called for a parenting support service.

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