Parents can slap and even kick their children when chastising them, one of the country's top judges has said.
The remarks, which will add to the already fierce debate about whether parents should be able to physically discipline their children, came at London's Appeal Court.
It is the first time that the courts have drawn a line at which the 'reasonable' point of punishing children becomes physical abuse.
Ruling in a case in which a local authority had wanted to take three children into care where there had been allegation of abuse, Lady Justice Hallett said: 'Reasonable physical chastisement of children by parents is not yet unlawful in this country.'
She went on: 'Slaps and even kicks vary enormously in their seriousness.
'A kick sounds particularly unpleasant, yet many a parent may have nudged their child's nappied bottom with their foot in gentle play, without committing an assault.
'Many a parent will have slapped a child on the hand to make the point that running out into a busy road is a dangerous thing to do.'
But last night those who want smacking to be made illegal said the judge's comments underlined exactly why a new law was needed.