Twelve Tribes 'child caning punishment' claims

BBC News/September 30, 2013

Allegations have been made that children are being beaten with canes at a small religious community in Devon.

The claims against the Twelve Tribes Community at Dunkeswell, near Honiton, were made in The Independent newspaper.

Concerns raised by the NSPCC about the way children are being "punished" are being investigated by Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon County Council.

Twelve Tribes has not responded to a request from BBC News for an interview.

The NSPCC said corporal punishment was "completely unacceptable" and caning had been "rightly outlawed" in England many years ago.

Twelve Tribes is a Christian organisation founded in the US and with communities across the world.

Earlier this month, German police and social workers removed 40 children from two communities at Klosterzimmern and Wornitz.

The sect follows teachings in the old and new testaments of the Christian bible as "God's direct word" and says its vision is "to form a new nation - the twelve tribe nation of Israel".

Twelve Tribes has previously defended its use of spanking as punishment but claims the "small reed-like rod" used is intended to inflict "pain and not damage".

The community at Dunkeswell is described on its website as "a little light in the darkness, just beginning to shine here in Britain".

A statement from the police said: "We can confirm that Devon and Cornwall Police and Devon County Council are working together to thoroughly review the recent information received about the welfare of children in the Honiton area."

Phillip Noyes, director of strategy and development at the NSPCC, said: "Caning of children or the threat of caning is a completely unacceptable method of disciplinary action to take with any child.

"This was quite rightly outlawed by schools in England many years ago and we would always encourage alternative methods of discipline as opposed to hitting or beating.

"Children grow up to become healthy, confident adults when they are loved and cared for by adults who have clear boundaries and adopt consistent discipline."

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