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To smack or not? That is the question

Senior police are reviewing whether to pursue a case against a mother accused of assaulting her four-year-old son because she allegedly slapped him twice on the face.

It was confirmed yesterday that senior officers are looking into the decision to charge the woman, in a case which has prompted heated community debate over whether parents should smack their children to discipline them and whether police overreacted.

Police and prosecutors can choose not to pursue charges after taking public interest into account.

The Department for Child Protection and Family Support has met the accused mother, but director- general Emma White said yesterday that the department would take no further action.

The woman's husband has said she is "mortified" at being charged with common assault for disciplining her son after he misbehaved at the Ellenbrook shops last month.

In WA it is legal for a parent to use force against a child in their care if it is "reasonable under the circumstances".

Police are likely to use as evidence the shopping centre's security vision, which the boy's father has been told shows his wife slapping their son twice.

The boy's father has said he would like the charge against his wife dropped.

Australian Medical Association WA president Michael Gannon said it would be outrageous if the mother was prosecuted with common assault for disciplining her own child.

But Dr Gannon said there was no evidence to suggest that smacking a child as a form of discipline was beneficial and parents should teach children from a young age that hitting was not acceptable.

Earlier this month, the Pope told a big crowd at his weekly general audience in the Vatican that it was acceptable for parents to smack their children for bad behaviour.

But Perth Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said he found it difficult to envisage a situation where corporal punishment would be appropriate.

Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said children should never be hit in the face because they had thin skulls.

The mother is due to appear in court on March 12.