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Corporal Punishment of Children - United Call to Support Equal Protection for Children in NI

29 May 2019

Corporal Punishment of Children - United Call to Support Equal Protection for Children in Northern Ireland

Ending physical punishment of children and meeting international human rights standards is being highlighted today in Belfast at an event organised by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and Commissioner for Children and Young People. At the event Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services in Wales will speak of her experience of introducing The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill. The Bill is currently moving through the National Assembly for Wales’ scrutiny process and seeks to end the physical punishment of children.

The event will also hear from the Director of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.

Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission said:

“Most adults wouldn’t dream of raising their hands to strike another grown up. It is not OK for an adult who has caring responsibility for an older person to hit or smack that person. Why is it OK then for an adult with caring responsibility for a child to hit or smack them?” We welcome the visit of the Welsh Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan to Northern Ireland today and the opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. Northern Ireland law still allows the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ for parents who physically punish their children. We should follow the example of Wales and ensure children receive the same legal protection from violence as adults. We need to bring Northern Ireland law in line with human rights standards and end the corporal punishment of children.”

Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM commented:

“I’m delighted to be in Belfast today to share ideas and to discuss the Bill which takes our commitment to protect children’s rights a step further and will help end the physical punishment of children in Wales. If passed, it will ensure children and young people in Wales have the same protection from physical punishment as adults. We believe that every child should have the best start in life and our Bill sends a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales. The Bill is the first major divergence between Welsh and English criminal law. If passed, the legislation will be accompanied by an extensive awareness-raising campaign.”

NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma added:

“We want to be clear that this isn’t about criminalising parents. Parents have one of the toughest and yet most rewarding jobs and for too long now they have been given mixed messages about how to effectively discipline their children. Changes to the law must go hand in hand with positive parenting support and guidance on constructive ways of managing challenging and stressful situations. We need to redefine what is acceptable in how we treat our children and what we teach them through our own behaviour. We want the law in Northern Ireland to send a clear message that no forms of physical violence or force are acceptable in our homes.”

Director of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Anna Henry added:

“The international experience highlights that overall, the impact of prohibiting corporal punishment is positive - A recent study has shown that peer violence amongst teenagers has decreased in the countries that have prohibited corporal punishment; and in Sweden, who became the first country to prohibit corporal punishment forty years ago, research shows a positive change in attitudes towards use of corporal punishment, and over time, a decrease in the number of young people involved in various types of crime. Removing the defence of reasonable punishment would allow Northern Ireland to join with more than a quarter of the states around the world to tackle violence by protecting children from physical punishment.”


Further information:

Press are welcome to attend this event.

For further information please contact Claire Martin on (028) 9024 3987/ 0771 7731873 or by email on

Notes to Editors

1. The Supporting Equal Protection for Children in Northern Ireland will be held on Wednesday 29 May from 12.30-1.30 at The MAC Belfast. All media are invited.

2. Agenda

12.30 – Event Begins - Introduction from NI Human Rights Commission, Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby

12.35 - Screening of brand new animation on equal protection

12.40 – Keynote address by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM

13.00 - NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma

13.05 - Director of Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Anna Henry

13.10 - Panel Discussion

• NI Commissioner for Children and Young People, Koulla Yiasouma

• Director of Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, Anna Henry

• Member of NICCY Youth Panel

13.30 Event Ends

13.30 – 14.00 – Light Lunch

3. The animation is available to watch here.

N.I current law:

Article 2 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) (NI) Order 2006 continues to allow for a defence of reasonable punishment of a child in certain circumstances

What the human rights standards are:

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended the abolition of corporal punishment of children in the United Kingdom, recommending that the UK Government and devolved administrations:

1. Prohibit as a matter of priority all corporal punishment in the family, including through the repeal of all legal defences, such as ‘reasonable chastisement;

2. Ensure that corporal punishment is explicitly prohibited in all schools and educational institutions and all other institutions and forms of alternative care;

3. Strengthen its efforts to promote positive and non-violent forms of discipline and respect for children’s equal right to human dignity and physical integrity, with a view to eliminating the general acceptance of the use of corporal punishment in child-rearing.


Julie Morgan AM – Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Wales

Julie Morgan was born in Cardiff and educated at Dinas Powys Primary School, Howell’s School, King’s College London, the University of Manchester and Cardiff University. She worked as a social worker and manager in South and West Glamorgan County Councils before becoming an Assistant Director at Barnardos. She was a councillor on South Glamorgan County Council until she was elected as MP for Cardiff North in 1997.

During her time in Westminster Julie presented 3 private members’ bills - one on banning smoking in public places, one on granting votes at 16, and one on preventing under-18s from using sunbeds which became law in 2010.

Julie was elected as the Assembly Member for Cardiff North in 2011 and was a member of the Public Accounts Committee, the Finance Committee and the Environment Committee during the Fourth Assembly, as well as chairing 7 cross-party groups covering areas such as children, cancer, and nursing and midwifery. In the Fifth Assembly, Julie was a member of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee and the Children, Young People and Education Committee.

On 13 December 2018 Julie was appointed Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services.

Les Allamby - Chief Commissioner, NI Human Rights Commission

Les Allamby has been appointed Chief Commissioner for a period of five years. He took up post on 1 September 2014.

Les is a solicitor and formerly the Director of the Law Centre (Northern Ireland). He was appointed honorary Professor of Law at the University of Ulster last year and is a trustee of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. He was a former Chair of an Advisory group to Human Rights Commission on proposals for economic and social rights within a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

He was also formerly the Chair of the Social Security Standards Committee for Northern Ireland, a member of the Legal Services Commission (Northern Ireland) and a member of the Legal Services Review Group. He has undertaken election monitoring for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and International Organisation for Migration in Bosnia, Pakistan and Georgia.

Les was also a former Chair of the immigration sub group (OFMDFM) and a former member of the Northern Ireland Strategic Migration Partnership (Home Office).

Koulla Yiasouma – NI Commissioner for Children and Young People

Koulla Yiasouma took up appointment as NI Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) in March 2015.

She trained as a social worker and previously worked in probation, NI Women’s Aid and prior to her appointment was the Director of Include Youth for almost 17 years. She has also been involved in the boards of a number of voluntary and community based organisation as well as non-departmental public bodies. She is a passionate advocate for the rights of all children, especially those with the most challenging behaviours, and she represented these issues on these bodies.

As a Human Rights institution, the NI Commissioner for Children and Young People is appointed by the First and Deputy First Ministers and tasked to promote and safeguard the rights and best interests of children and young people across Northern Ireland. This includes advising public authorities, and holding them to account in a variety of ways, on their delivery of children’s rights. Koulla set key strategic priorities for her term in Office. These include addressing educational inequalities, tackling child poverty, improving emotional and mental well-being and addressing the on-going legacy of the conflict on children and young people.

Koulla is of Greek Cypriot origin and is married with two daughters. She was born in London and is therefore an avid Arsenal supporter.

Anna Henry – Director, Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children

Anna Henry took up the role of Director of the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children in September 2017. She has twenty years’ experience in the human rights field in the UK. Previously she was Director of Children’s Rights and interim Deputy CEO at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England from 2014-2017. Whilst working for the Commissioner, she chaired both the UK’s Anti Bullying Alliance, and the Children’s Subgroup of the UK NPM under OPCAT. Prior to this, she worked for the UK’s National Human Rights Institution, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, joining in 2009 to coordinate the Commission’s first state of the nation report ‘How Fair is Britain’, which was laid before Parliament in October 2010. She became Director of Human Rights in 2011, managing the EHRC’s international policy including UPR, treaty monitoring and Human Rights Council liaison, and partnership work with the EU and COE. She also led on disability rights, criminal justice and counter terrorism programmes.

The first decade of her career was as a community worker and organiser specialising in education, participation and social justice. She worked for bodies such as Amnesty International (UK Section and the International Secretariat) in human rights education, and for Praxis Refugee Community Organisation, setting up projects that included temporary housing, food banks and advice services for young refugees and asylum seekers, and projects to promote human rights education, political activism and community participation for a wide range of groups.

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