Keir Starmer, the ex-director of public prosecution has stated that a failure to report child abuse should become a criminal offence.
Mr Starmer’s view is that there should be a mandatory reporting law, and those people in professional jobs with responsibility should be under obligation to inform the authorities about any child abuse. A failure to do this should in his view lead to imprisonment.
This follows recent incidents where professionals in schools have failed to protect children from sex offenders, and of course the revelations following the Jimmy Saville sex abuse scandal. Declassified government files have revealed that senior civil servants were aware that authorities routinely hid abuse. Schools in particular were more interested in protecting their reputation.
At the current time there is a variety of statutory guidance which urges professionals such as doctors, teachers and social workers to report child abuse. Any failure to report such abuse is not, however, deemed to be a criminal offence and questions have been raised as to whether mandatory reporting will actually solve the problem..
Mr Starmer’s comments also highlighted that there were gaps in the law that needed to be ‘plugged’, and that anyone in a position of responsibility who failed to report suspected abuse should face a criminal penalty, such as a short prison sentence or fine. Any individuals that did report should be offered some immunity.
Mr Starmer said “there are just too many examples of cases where those who have suspected abuse have not really done anything about it and the perpetrator has either got away with it or, worse still, been able to perpetuate the offending’.
Despite the comments, the government has no current plans to change the law regarding the reporting of child abuse. The Department of Education stated that thousands of referrals are made every year relating to possible child abuse and that laws regarding mandatory reporting are not necessarily a better system for protecting children.
Dame Clare Tickell, the chief executive of Action for Children added that reporting child abuse was increasing in the UK.
At Farleys, we have a dedicated team of child abuse claim lawyers who help the victims of abuse to pursue compensation claims against the responsible party, be it an individual perpetrator or those in positions of responsibility who have failed in their duty of care to protect children. To discuss the possibility of making a claim with one of our experts in this area, please do not hesitate to contact us. All enquiries are treated with confidence.
By Jonathan Bridge, Abuse Claim Lawyer