LONDON, Ontario (AP) _ An American tourist was acquitted Wednesday of assault charges filed after he spanked his 5-year-old daughter on her bare bottom for slamming her brother's fingers in a car door.

Outraged bystanders had called police last year after seeing David Peterson spank his daughter, Rachel, with his open hand in a restaurant parking lot in this southwestern Ontario town.

In his ruling, Judge John Menzies described Peterson as ``responsible, reasonable and caring,'' and said the spanking ``was controlled and measured ... and was for a corrective purpose.''

Prosecutors had argued that Peterson, 39, of Warrenville, Ill., used excessive force, and witnesses testified he was angry and yelling when he spanked his daughter.

But a doctor who examined Rachel testified there was no bruising, redness or tenderness on the child's buttocks.

After his acquittal, Peterson said he believed parents should be allowed to discipline their children as they see fit.

``I think the large public debate just kind of landed on us,'' he said. ``We were just passing through and we stepped in it, so to speak.''

Peterson's wife, Paula, a first grade teacher pursuing a doctorate in early childhood education, said she was not angry that witnesses called the police.

``I think my overwhelming feeling is relief,'' she said.

Peterson's lawyer said Canada's criminal code allows parents some discretion in punishing their children as long as they do not cause injury.

According to the code, teachers, parents or people standing in for parents can use force as a means of correction ``if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.''

Justice Minister Allan Rock said the code would not be altered following Wednesday's verdict. ``I think any time a parent behaves toward a child, they should do so reasonably and that's exactly what's reflected'' in the current code, Rock said.

Peterson said the public spanking hasn't affected his daughter. ``It was all over with her when we left town,'' he said.