I've been following some of the arguments made by people around banning parents smacking their children (laws are already in place against beating children, these recent moves are against milder chastisements as well). I am happily childless and have scant interest in the rights and wrongs of child-rearing techniques, so I am not about to earn the wrath of Mumsnet by taking a stance on that one. What interests me is that most of the people I have seen arguing in favour of this ban do not want courts to send such parents to prison - in effect saying that they want a law to exist but do not really want it implemented to criminalise people who break it. Which returns us to the issue of what function the law is now starting to serve - if not to penalise wrongdoing then is it to wag a finger of paternalist disapproval towards morally debatable acts, or to re-educate people into not breaking the law again (as it has already started to do, with insistence that some legal infringements require people to be taught not to do it again)?
I may re-record this as it is a bit too rambling and some of the issues would benefit from deeper explanation, but it might be of mild interest to some people as it is.