Father guilty of smacking goes free

A FATHER found guilty of assault after he smacked his eight-year- old daughter in public walked free yesterday when a court decided he had suffered enough. Campaigners said the decision was a victory for common sense.

The man, a teacher, was told that with his career now in the balance there was little to be gained from punishing him further. He was admonished and discharged - a punishment under Scots law similar to a conditional discharge.

As he left Hamilton Sheriff Court, the 48-year-old was embraced by one of his other two children. Admitting that he had acted wrongly, he said: "I don't think I am a violent person. I said at the time it was wrong. I smacked her so hard. But even when she is tickled she bruises. But I am not trying to minimise what I did and it is a thing I would never do again.

"I know that when I tuck my children into bed at night they know their daddy is not a criminal."

The court had been told that the incident took place on Christmas Eve last year at Motherwell Health Centre, where the man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of his child, put his daughter across his knee, pulled down her underwear and smacked her bare bottom.

Staff at the centre called the social services. When the girl was examined by a doctor she was found to be bruised.

The father told police who arrested him that he had been trying to make his daughter have a tooth removed. At the court hearing the girl said she had not been sore after the smack.

Because of his arrest, the man was placed on library duty at his school and banned from his family home over Christmas.

Sheriff Dan Russell had previously ruled that the man's daughter had been a victim of "unnecessary suffering". But yesterday he said he had decided that the father had already been punished enough.

"What has occurred already should be sufficient to ensure no recurrence of such behaviour. I therefore admonish you," he said. "As a result of your actions you have already suffered substantially - questioned by the police, charged and convicted of this offence with substantial loss to your previous clear record. You have also suffered temporary exclusion from your home and your family. Clearly you have the worry and uncertainty of what effect this conviction may have on your future professional life."

Refusing a defence request to order an absolute discharge, Sheriff Russell also decided that the man's three children should be referred to the Reporter to the Children's Panel. The panel will decide whether the children should be placed under a supervision order.

As the man left the court accompanied by his family, his wife said she was relieved at the outcome. "I just wish they could have done this at the beginning without putting our daughter through the trauma. She was so upset from the whole thing," she said.

Cornelia Oddie, deputy director of Family and Youth Concern, a think- tank on family issues, said: "No one condones smacking children but to criminalise a parent for disciplining his child is to involve the state in family affairs in a completely out-of-order way. He is just an ordinary father who has smacked his child. He has probably never done it before and will probably never do it again."

Education officials have still to decide the man's future. The General Teaching Council, the professional teaching body in Scotland, said a report had been received from the Scottish Criminal Records Office.

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