Police and social workers should make allowances for “cultural context” while investigating the cases of alleged physical abuse by parents.
Those were the comments of a senior family law judge who said immigrants should be able to smack their children.
In a statement which has been criticised by children’s charities, Mrs Justice Pauffley said people who had “newly arrived” in the UK should be allowed to hit their children for misbehaving.
The judge, who sits in the Family Division of the High Court, made the remarks in a legal battle involving an Indian man accused of beating his wife and seven-year-old son.
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, alleged that his father had hit him with a belt on his back and leg.
The man denied the allegation but accepted he had given his son “a slap or a tap” to keep him disciplined.
The judge said this did not amount to “punitively harsh treatment of the kind that would merit the term physical abuse”.
She added: “Within many communities newly arrived in this country, children are slapped and hit for misbehaviour in a way which at first excites the interest of child protection professionals.
“Proper allowance must be made for what is, almost certainly, a different cultural context.”
But the NSPCC said different practices in communities were no excuse for “child abuse taking place in this country”.
A spokesman for the charity said: “Children need to be protected irrespective of cultural sensitivities.
“Different practices are no excuse for child abuse taking place in this country and the law doesn’t make that distinction.
“Every child deserves the right to be safe and protected from physical abuse and the courts must reflect this.”
Under the Children Act 2004 it is not illegal for a parent to hit their child as long as it amounts to “reasonable punishment”.
The father launched family court proceedings in October 2014 after being arrested on suspicion of assault and released on bail on condition that he did not contact his wife or son, said the judge.
Mrs Justice Pauffley gave no detail about the progress of any police investigation.