Thursday Law Report: Abolition of Corporal Punishment in Schools Did Not Breach Human Rights ; 19 December 2002 Regina (on the Application of Williamson and Others) V Secretary of State for Education and Employment ( EWCA Civ 1820) Court of Appeal, Civil Division (Lord Justice Buxton, Lord Justice Rix and Lady Justice Arden) 12 December 2002
Kate O'Hanlon, Barrister, The Independent (London, England)
SECTION 548 of the Education Act 1996, which abolished corporal punishment in schools, did not infringe articles 8, 9(1) or 10 of, or article 2 of the First Protocol to, the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the claimants' appeal against the dismissal of their application for judicial review.
The claimants were teachers at, and parents who sent their children to, a number of independent private schools established specifically to provide Christian education based on biblical observance. It was their case that the use of corporal punishment was based upon Christian principles.
They claimed, inter alia, that section 548(1) of the Education Act 1996 as amended by section 131 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 to apply to wholly private schools, infringed their rights under articles 8, 9(1) and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and article 2 of the First Protocol thereto. Section 548(1) provided:
Corporal punishment given by, or on the authority of a member of staff to a child for whom education is provided at any school . . . cannot be justified in any proceedings on the ground that it was given in pursuance of a right exercisable by a member of staff by virtue of his position as such.
The claimants' application for judicial review was dismissed, and they appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Paul Diamond and Bruno Quintavalle (Windsor & Co) for the claimants; Hugo Keith (Treasury Solicitor) for the Secretary of State.
Lady Justice Arden said (Lord Justice Buxton dissenting) that, on the evidence, it was an integral and necessary part of the religious beliefs of the claimants that, where appropriate, they should discipline children in their care by what the judge had called "smacking". …