By Hilary White

LONDON, November 10, 2008 ( – A court has ruled in favour of a British couple who had appealed a decision by a local council to bar them from adopting a baby girl on the grounds that they sometimes used spanking to discipline their son. The court called the council’s decision “bordering on the bizarre” and has ordered that the couple be reconsidered for adoption.

The couple, identified only as Mr. and Mrs. A, have an adopted son and had applied to the Newham county council in east London to adopt his baby sister. They were refused when Mr. A admitted to using corporal punishment in rearing his son. The couple’s barrister said that the Newham council’s decision violated the family’s human rights, and that their son would now unjustly grow up without his sister. The couple are experienced foster parents and have taken in children from all over London.

Mr. Justice Bennett, however, ruled that the couple’s application to adopt the baby girl must be reconsidered. He said the council’s decision was “unreasonable” and “in dangerous territory.” 

The council had dismissed the findings of a review panel which described the parents as “strong, caring, sensitive, supportive and resourceful.” Despite the fact that spanking remains legal in Britain, the council concluded that “Mr. A does not appear to accept that corporal punishment should not be used. Such indications would normally mean an adoption application would be refused.”

Several attempts by activists in Parliament have failed to prohibit parents from using corporal punishment to discipline their children. The most recent law upholds parents’ rights, only outlawing punishment which leaves “physical marks” or causes “mental harm.”

(Note: With files from the Christian Institute)

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