In most common law countries any common assault (that is deliberate or reckless physical contact without consent) is illegal. There are however a series of exceptions to that proposition where the public interest is deemed to justify allowing such assaults. For example, we allow people to cause others physical harm in the name of self defence or legal war and we allow the police to cause criminals a degree of physical harm. In all these cases physical harm is allowed either because there is no alternative or because of the urgency of the situation. They may also be justified by claims that these actions are in the name of the greater good.
Another oft used example is that of 'lawful chastisement.' In most cases it is legitimate to strike children for that purpose where it would not be acceptable to strike an adult. That is, the use of physical punishment to chastise one's spouse or employee has long been deemed illegal harassment in almost all nations, particularly democracies. When milder physical punished is used to chastise children it is usually referred to as smacking or spanking. The law varies from country to country as to what is an acceptable level of force but very few countries (Germany and Sweden are notable exception) have an outright ban on parents using such force. "Currently in England and Wales, section 58 of the Children Act 2004 enables parents to justify common assault of their children as "reasonable punishment", but prevents the defence being used in relation to more serious assault charges". In order for a punishment to be 'reasonable' it must not cause serious mental or physical damage, it must be administered only by a parent and it must be in the name of punishment – rather than say sexual pleasure or as an emotional outlet.
The debate turns not only on the moral principle behind the legitimacy of smacking itself but also on the effects of allowing smacking on the state’s ability to police child abuse.
England, C. (2011, June 25). Canadians to host conference on false accusations of child abuse after vaccine injuries. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from Vac Truth: Hirsch, A. (2010, April 25). Europe presses UK to introduce total ban on smacking children. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from The Guardian: Macleod, D. (2007, October 25). Smacking ban retreat condemned. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from Guardian:Moorhead, J. (2006, September 17). Parenting discipline: Smacking is it really so bad? Retrieved August 1, 2011, from The Independent: Robinson, N. (2009, August). Using false accusations of child abuse as a weapon. Retrieved August 1, 2011, from Kenja-Attacked: Sayre, C. (2007, January 24). Should spanking be banned? Retrieved July 28, 2011, from Time U.S. :