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UK accused over habit of smacking

(First Edition)

A CAMPAIGN was launched yesterday aimed at ending the physical punishment of children.

The children's rights group Epoch has published a report calling on governments to abolish the use of violence as a form of discipline.

The group claims that hitting children has become a world-wide practice - spread partly by Britain - and it wants its UK-based branch to take a leading role in the campaign aimed at eradication.

A spokeswoman, Penelope Leach, said: 'Imperial Britain did much to spread the habit of hitting children around the world, so it seems highly appropriate that a UK-based campaign should now play a leading part in world-wide movements against physical punishment.'

The report - being launched at the Ninth International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in Chicago - claims that hitting children passes from one generation to another. It says physical punishment is a violation of human rights and could lead to serious 'accidental injuries' or escalate into child abuse.

Britain banned corporal punishment in schools in 1987 - but the ban applies only to state schools, and children can still be beaten by their parents or carers. Epoch says Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Austria are the only countries to have banned all forms of physical punishment.