Appeal on ruling over smacking: Local authority claims that magistrates' decision 'throws law into confusion'. Mary Braid reports

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A COUNCIL is to appeal against a court ruling that a child-minder was within her rights to smack children in her charge, writes Mary Braid.

The decision by magistrates in Sutton, south London, went against the trend to ban physical discipline in schools. Charles Waddicor, Sutton council's director of housing and social services, said the ruling had 'thrown the law into confusion'. The law appeared to say that it was all right to hit, slap, smack or shake children under five, but wrong to give school-age children the same treatment.

The challenge will be closely watched by all local authorities who have implemented guidelines which banned physical discipline in schools in 1986 and in children's homes in 1990.

Sutton magistrates said the council's position, that smacking breached Department of Health guidelines, was untenable. They said it was 'common sense' that there would be times when a child-minder would smack a child.

In the Sutton case, the child-minder, Anne Davis, won an appeal against a decision to remove her from the child-minding register because she refused to undertake not to smack children.