Almost 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for new legislation to help protect children from abuse in the wake of Daniel Pelka’s murder.
Four year old Daniel was beaten, starved and poisoned by his mother and her partner, who hid the abuse by claiming he had an eating disorder. Medical experts said Daniel’s emaciation was ‘unprecedented’ in Britain and likened him to a concentration camp victim. His mother Magdelena Luczak and her partner, Mariusz Krezolek, were jailed for a minimum of 30 years.
A court heard that doctors and teachers had seen Daniel with injuries, and school staff saw him fishing in bins and stealing from children’s lunchboxes for scraps of food. Despite this, there was no intervention by any of the agencies responsible for child protection.
A serious case review is currently investigating how education authorities and social services failed to detect the abuse Daniel suffered. The review’s findings will be considered by the Prime Minister David Cameron.
The petition calls for changes in the law to mean that teachers and carers who spot bruising and extreme hunger in children should be obligated to report signs of abuse. Launched by a Manchester mother of two, Paula Barrow, the petition attempts to highlight the need for mandatory reporting of child abuse. Ms Barrow says the lack of a legal requirement for people working with children in the UK to report suspected abuse represents a ‘critical hole’ in current legislation.
Introducing her petition on the website change.org, Ms Barrow said it is ‘incomprehensible’ that authorities did not do more to help Daniel. “We need to ensure that adults in regulated activities come to the aid of vulnerable children, in this case to the aid of a child who could be seen to be literally struggling to survive,” she said.
The petition has been backed by five leading abuse charities, the National Association of People Abused In Childhood, Survivors UK, Respond, Innocence In Danger and the Survivors Trust.
Fay Maxted, chief executive of The Survivors Trust, said “If law is introduced, staff will have no doubt what to do, and they would have legal protection from recrimination which presently can follow when a member of staff takes the conscientious step of reporting.”
Mandatory reporting is already in place in countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland and the United States but there is currently no legal requirement for anyone working with children in the UK to report suspected or known abuse to either the appropriate local authority officer or to the police.
This tragic story highlights the fact that warning signs were undoubtedly missed by the authorities, signs that ultimately could have prevented further abuse from taking place. As a solicitor specialising in abuse claims, we unfortunately see instances where opportunities to raise the alarm have been missed time after time.
Daniel was badly let down by all of the agencies involved and lessons should now be learnt from these crucial mistakes. By making those working with children in regulated activities legally responsible to report concerns, it is hoped that staff will come forward and report concerns without hesitation.
By Jonathan Bridge, Child Abuse Claim Lawyer