Parents ‘allowed to smack children’

Swedish parents are allowed to smack their children, as long as they do not hit them too hard, a court in southern Sweden has ruled.

Ystad District Court was ruling in the case of a couple accused of assaulting their daughter. The pair were accused after the girl, 5, told a nurse at a medical check-up that she had been hit.

In subsequent interviews the girl told police:

“When daddy came home from work and was very cross, he hit me on the bottom and it hurt.

“Mummy also hit me on the head, and that hurt,” she added.

The father admitted smacking the girl on the bottom, saying that the physical chastisement was part of her upbringing.

A unanimous court ruled that the father’s smack did not constitute assault – it was not hard enough to be assault, nor was it done with indifference to the pain it would cause.

Hans Hulthén, the lawyer representing the girl, said he was considering appealing the verdict.

“This ruling undoubtedly sends very strange signals,” Hulthén said.

Swedish law is widely interpreted as banning smacking of children, and Sweden is frequently cited internationally as an example of a country with a total ban on corporal punishment.

The 1979 Parenting Act states that children “may not be subjected to corporal chastisement or other demeaning treatment.”

According to Sweden’s Children’s Ombudsman, the preparatory work for the act stipulates that corporal punishment is banned if it causes the child physical injury or pain. This is intended to apply even to a light strike or passing pain, it states.