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Domestic CP - May 2003
Sunday Mail, Glasgow, 4 May 2003
I'm A Hero
Minister who belted children boasts that he is a 'figurehead' for parents
By Billy Paterson
A MINISTER who belted two children "as a form of Christian chastisement" has boasted he has become the people's champion for corporal punishment.
The Rev Martin Trench claimed he had been inundated with letters of support from parents.
The minister said: "Family values need protection from the politically correct brigade who are tearing Scotland up."
He added: "I now seem unintentionally to have become a figurehead for parents throughout Scotland who are deeply concerned at the 'politically correct' persecution by certain members of the social services and Scottish Parliament.
"Parents are being told they will be taken to court if they discipline their children.
"They will also be taken to court if their children are undisciplined.
"They will also be taken to court if they keep their children off school. Yet the schools will teach homosexuality to primary school children despite the vast majority of Scots parents strongly opposing the repeal of Section 28."
Trench claimed that when he repeatedly struck the two boys, aged six and eight, with his belt, he was exercising a form of Christian chastisement.
He was cleared at Ayr Sheriff Court of assaulting the youngsters.
But in finding him not guilty, Sheriff Colin Miller branded the fire- and-brimstone, evangelical preacher a liar and said he didn't believe his evidence.
And the mother of the two boys has raised a civil action to stop him having contact with her children.
Sheriff Miller said that, as the law stands, because there was no evidence of marking or injury to the boys, he had to find Trench not guilty.
He added: "There has been much debate over how this law is performed. It may well be time for it to be re-examined."
Trench, 36, runs the Coastland Christian Fellowship Church from a school for special needs children in Ayr. His wife, Christine, runs a lingerie shop in the town.
One boy told the court he was belted 12 times by Trench after he relieved himself on a slide in a public park.
During his trial, Trench told the court: "I did it in the name of God. I have a deep, strong faith in God. The use of implements is quite common among evangelical Christians. Certainly people have recommended it during the course of my studies."
His comments outraged Ayr MP Sandra Osborne who said: "It is not acceptable to hit children with implements, whatever a person's beliefs or walk of life.
"I have written to the council asking if this person and organisation are being investigated by the social work department to assess whether they represent a risk to children.
"I will also ask whether it is appropriate to lease property to them and to consider banning them from Craigpark School."
Local MSP Phil Gallie took an opposing view. He said: "Any child who urinates on a slide which has to be used by other children deserves a crack across the backside.
"I have also dealt with other cases where members of the public - one a former police officer - have chased youngsters for committing acts of vandalism and ended up being charged themselves.
"I suggest the balance has swung too far."
Trench claimed in court he gave the boys three taps with the belt over their clothing. The boys said that he removed their trousers and raised the belt above his shoulder before striking them.
Sheriff Colin Miller said: "I believe the boys. I believe they are telling the truth.
"On the other hand, the accused was not very impressive in his evidence and I don't believe his elaborate stories."
Note by C.F.: Somebody plausibly claiming to be the Martin Trench referred to in the above news item has contacted me. He writes:
"This case began as a custody dispute (many years after the end of my first marriage, which was due to my wife leaving me and our children to begin a relationship with another man - and no allegations of any kind were made by her against me).
"When this custody dispute began, it was in the family courts and so was in private and out of the view of the press. When she was declined custody, she then made this allegation which brought the case into the public courts, and she contacted the tabloid press to ensure their involvement.
"When the allegation was disproved, the case returned to the private family courts and so the press did not have access to the complete vindication of myself and my ex-wife's withdrawal of the allegation.
"Because the Daily Record/Sunday Mail had written things in a manner which implied I had just "got off with it" and had "admitted it", and had even put words in my mouth and the judge's mouth (he never once referred to me as a "liar" and I never said "I did in in the name of God", etc.), I discussed with my solicitor the possibility of suing them. He advised me that I reconsider because of the cost involved, the length of time it would take, and the emotional toll on my family (who had already needlessly been dragged through the mud). I decided to just get on with my life and leave it at that. (Incidentally, the journalist for the Sunday Mail arrived at court reeking of alcohol every day)."
The Times, London, 5 May 2003
Childminders are to be banned from smacking
By Michelle Henery
A BAN on parents smacking their children moved a step closer yesterday when the Government disclosed its plans to prevent childminders from using physical punishment.
More than 70,000 registered childminders in England will be banned from smacking children in their care from this autumn even if they have permission from parents. Childcare organisations said yesterday that they hoped the law would be extended to parents, who will now become the only people legally allowed to smack children.
Baroness Walmsley, of the Children Are Unbeatable Alliance, said: "A move to legally stop childminders from hitting children would be a step forward. But hitting children is unacceptable in all settings, so we will continue to campaign to modernise the law to protect children from being hit."
The ban on childminders using physical punishment or smoking in front of youngsters will be introduced in the autumn despite warnings from David Blunkett, made when he was Education Secretary, that it would be the "thin end of the wedge" that would be likely to lead to an outright ban.
The new law will prevent registered childminders from smacking or using any form of corporal punishment against children under eight, bringing them under the same regulations as apply to nursery staff and teachers.
Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, attempted yesterday to clear up the confusion that could arise in situations when a childminder is looking after both a client's child and their own, and can smack one but not the other. "This measure is not about telling parents how to bring up their kids," he said. "But equally there has got to be some protection for children, and nowadays nobody would be very happy if teachers and nursery nurses started hitting children.
"So there is an anomaly here that needs clearing up, and that's in relation to childminders. Very often the kids that they are looking after are much younger than school-age children and are even more vulnerable."
Norman Wells, of the Families First organisation, criticised the move as undermining the role of parents. "This is a matter really that can be left to parents to discuss and decide in discussion with a childminder," he said.
"This is all part of a very wide agenda which goes far beyond the issue of the physical correction of children. It is an effort by a small group of people to impose an entire philosophy of bringing up children by force of law."
The ban follows pressure from the United Nations to scrap laws that defend parental smacking on the ground of "reasonable chastisement".
A Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman said: "It's a move to bring the guidance in line with the standards for other childcare professionals, creating more consistency and clarity across the board. It will help parents to access good- quality childcare and also protect children, ensuring a safe start in life."
Previous surveys have revealed differing views on smacking by parents and childminders. In 2001 an independent poll showed 84 per cent of parents said that they, rather than the Government, should decide if a childminder should be allowed to smack their children. But in a 2002 survey by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), 58 per cent of people in England and Wales supported changing the law to give children protection from being hit, provided that parents are not prosecuted for "trivial smacks".
According to the Department for Education, only 1 per cent of England's 70,000 registered childminders have written agreements allowing them to smack children.
The NSPCC said that smacking had been banned in 12 European countries during the past 30 years. "In Sweden child protection has improved radically as a result and parents aren't being arrested for minor incidences.
"Our priority is to have this loophole closed with a further aim of having children gain the same protection from being hit as adults. But we would back a government campaign to educate parents on alternatives to smacking."
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