Is Child's Injury As a Result of Corporal Punishment Considered Criminal Negligence ?
In P.R. v. Dep't of Pub. Welfare, 569 Pa. 123, 801 A.2d 478 (2002) the mother used a belt to administer corporal punishment to her daughter in order to discipline her for writing on the walls. Id. at 126, 801 A.2d at 480.
The child was attempting to evade the blows from the belt when she was struck in the eye by the belt buckle and was subsequently hospitalized. Id.
The mother admitted to the facts leading up to the injury and responded with concern for her child. Id. at 127, 801 A.2d at 480.
The child believed the injury was an accident, the child was not afraid of her mother, and there were no signs of previous abuse or neglect. Id.
The Department of Public Welfare (DPW) report concluded that child abuse was indicated, but no further action was anticipated. Id.
Based on these facts, the Supreme Court concluded that DPW did not present substantial evidence to sustain a finding of child abuse. Id. at 138, 801 A.2d at 487.
The Court stated that one can question the use of a belt with a buckle in administering a spanking, but qualified that statement by stating that "in most circumstances the decision to use a belt that bears a buckle cannot be viewed, as a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable parent would observe in the same situation.
Without substantial proof that this unusual injury was more than the regrettable result of corporal punishment, we cannot allow the oddity of the result itself to presuppose the element of unjustifiable risk that would lead to the finding of criminal negligence." Id.