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New laws on smacking children will draw GPs into divisive legal rows over whether a parent has left a mark or caused mental harm, an academic is warning.

Professor Sarah Stewart-Brown, professor of public health at Warwick Medical School, warned the legislation will mean GPs having to judge if an injury to the child resulted from 'abusive punishment'.

The proposed law defines this as punishment that grazes, scratches, bruises, leaves any mark, or causes mental harm.

'Doctors pronouncing that it has will be tantamount to criminalising their patients or patients' parents, and saying that it has not potentially leaves a child in danger,' said Professor Stewart-Brown in a BMJ editorial.

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