Under the common law, parents and other adults who exercise parental control have the right to administer moderate and reasonable physical punishment to children in their care (although it is not clear if adults who are merely in temporary control of a child, such as baby sitters, are included) [see, for example, Police v G, DM  SASC 39]. However, excessive force may be regarded as assault, which is both a criminal offence and a civil wrong, giving the child the right to compensation for pain and any medical or other expenses incurred as a result.
The relationship between an adult and the child (for example, parent and child or teacher and child) is only one factor in deciding whether punishment is moderate and reasonable. Much depends on the circumstances of the case and the prevailing community standards, although relevant factors are:
It has also been held by the English Court of Appeal that, even where punishment is inflicted by a parent, the standard to be applied is that of the community generally and not that of the particular parents or family, or of any religious, ethnic or other group. For punishment by a teacher, see Education.
For more detailed information about physical punishment and related issues, see AIFS' Corporal Punishment- Key Issues Resource Sheet.