No comfort for caners in court;Letter

10th September 1999 at 01:00
THE CHRISTIAN Fellowship School and its partners who intend to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights over the use of corporal punishment are unlikely to succeed (TES, August 27).

This is not the first time that adults have tried to find legal support from Strasbourg to physically chastise children. During the past two decades the court has sent signals that it condemns physical chastisement as "degrading punishment", and no exemption has been allowed for religious groups.

The European Convention on Human Rights places an obligation on the state to protect all people within its jurisdiction. The situation will remain therefore, that while religious freedom is provided in the European Convention, the right of physical integrity remains sacrosanct.

When the Government makes good its electoral promise and incorporates the document into domestic legislation, invoking these rights will be made easier. This is in keeping with an underlying trend in international developments in the field of human rights which suggests that the child is to be afforded equal protection to adults under the law. Furthermore, this trend carries with it major implications for child welfare and family law. Asserting the rights of the child, distinct from and sometimes in conflict with those of adults, is becoming commonplace in Europe.

Furthermore, there have been attempts to forge a link between physical chastisement and child abuse which clearly sits uncomfortably in the school milieu.

Marie Parker-Jenkins

Professor of research in education School of education and social science University of Derby

Mickleover, Derbyshire

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