AUDIO: What Lewsley said about smacking

CHILDREN'S Commissioner Patricia Lewsley has claimed that she was misquoted about smacking.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback programme on Tuesday, the former SDLP politician claimed that her comments had been "taken out of context" and that she had been "entrapped" by the reporter.

However, in an audio recording of Ms Lewsley's interview with the News Letter, she is clearly heard to twice agree that smacking is child abuse.

The entire interview is available to listen to HERE.

A transcript of part of Ms Lewsley's half-hour interview, including the context in which she made the remarks which have stirred controversy, is published below. The transcript starts about 5 minutes into the recording.

Parties divided over smacking comments

Parents who smack 'like child abusers'

Reporter: "So, just in terms of how this (banning smacking) would work, if it was illegal to smack your children, how could parents not be dragged through the courts if they did that and it was reported and police were obviously under an obligation to enforce the law?

Patricia Lewsley: "Well I think it's about positive parenting strategies and ensuring that we have the support mechanisms there for parents. And I think the law as it stands at the minute kind of leaves parents confused because the definition of hitting is not very clear and they are not sure where they can go and get support. But if you look at the legislation also as it stands, and your talking about enforcement, a child who is in foster care, the law doesn't allow you to hit that child, a child that's at school, the legislation doesn't allow you to hit that child, a child that's in residential care, the legislation doesn't allow you to hit that child, so why is the only place that there is no legislation to protect children, that you're allowed to hit them if you're at home?"

Reporter: "But I mean, just coming back to how this would be enforced, I mean presumably you want to encourage parents not to do this, and you want to educate them and to give them all these other options , but, at the end of the day, some parents, if they decide to smack their children, will come before the courts or else the law is meaningless surely?"

PL: "Well..."

Press officer: "Social Services child protection.."

PL: "Well, there's Social Services child protection and there obviously would be some kind of initial investigation and I would assume that the severity of the incident would then be taken into consideration before it would ever proceed to court proceedings or others. I think there has to be some sense of responsibility here and sensibleness about this. It's not about every time you see a parent hit a child...as I've said to you, some of that may be around the reason that the parent themselves, and many parents have said to me that it's when I'm really frustrated and angry it's when I kind of lash out as a last resort. So it's how do we give parents coping mechanisms and skills to be able to deal with that."

Reporter: "Yeah, I mean, in terms of, you're saying that in about nine out of 10 cases people often say that it's out of frustration or anger or whatever, would you accept that there are...maybe one out of 10 cases where they genuinely feel that is the best way to approach..."

PL: "Well, probably that nine out of 10 was a very...you know it's probably more a six out of ten, but yes the statistics today tell us that there are 488 young people in Northern Ireland who are on the at risk register and that's solely because of physical abuse. I mean, there are lots of other statistics on there around sexual abuse and emotional abuse. But there are 488 young people in Northern Ireland...and this legislation is there to help and protect them.

Reporter: "Would you make any distinction between physical abuse and smacking?"

PL: "No."

Reporter: "Ok. Even if someone is setting out to deliberately harm their child and obviously cares nothing for them, and a parent who has the best interests of their child, albeit you may think misguided, at heart, and want to turn them into a better person — you think that's entirely the same thing?"

PL: "Yeah."

Press officer: "Say what children have told you....what children have told you about hitting..."

PL: "Yeah, well children have told us that hitting is humiliating. Even though they would say that their parents are loving and caring, they would say it's still humiliating."