As the deadline for responses to a government consultation on the reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect looms, a leading child abuse lawyer has re-iterated the need for mandatory reporting to be introduced to the UK.
Peter Garsden, Head of Abuse Law at Simpson Millar, said that Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world in its requirements to report child abuse and neglect and highlighted various campaigns that have pushed for a change in statutory duty of those responsible for the care of children.
Mandatory Reporting & A Duty To Act
Currently, there is no legal requirement for those who witness child abuse or neglect to report or act upon what they witnessed, it is claimed that this is the reason that Jimmy Savile’s crimes went unpunished for decades.
A report into the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal showed that he was caught abusing a young girl at the BBC, however a junior member of staff was ignored when he tried to report the crime to his superiors; there was a similar case at Stoke Mandeville hospital, where a junior member of staff was dismissed after she complained to other colleagues of Savile’s abuse.
Mandatory reporting, and a duty to act, both place legal requirements on those who witness abuse to challenge the abuser, whether this be by taking direct action or by reporting the abuse to a relevant authority, failure to do so could lead to a criminal conviction.
In light of overwhelming evidence in favour of mandatory reporting, the Government set out a consultation on the subject of reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect.
The consultation sought to establish options for reforming the current child protection services in England, with the possibility of bringing in new legislation to ensure that child abuse does not go unreported.
Mandatory Reporting Around The World
England is unique in its position on mandatory reporting, as it is one of the few nations in the world that does not place a statutory duty of reporting on witnesses of sexual abuse.
- 86% of European countries have some form of mandatory reporting
- 77% of African nations have some form in place
- 72% of Asian countries have at least basic legislation on mandatory reporting
- 90% of the Americas have rules in place denoting a legal obligation to report child abuse and neglect
Various political parties in the UK have outlined plans to introduce mandatory reporting in recent manifestos, however the Government have delayed implementing legislation as they are concerned that services would become inundated with reports and the would not have the resources to continue dealing with the worst cases of sexual abuse.
It is for this reason that most nations limit who is subject to the requirements, with many only subjecting professionals that work with children to mandatory reporting laws.
Having advocated mandatory reporting for a long time, Peter said:
“I’m glad that the Government have run this consultation on reporting child abuse and neglect. Now the deadline is near and it is time for them to consider responses, I sincerely hope that they take action and implement legislation that will protect children from future abuse.”
“Multiple abuse survivors have come forward to advocate an introduction of mandatory reporting in the UK and the campaign group Mandate Now have made great strides in pressuring the Government into implementing a law requiring all staff who work within ‘Regulated Activities’ to report concerns about the welfare of a child to the Local Authority.”
“In my capacity of President of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers (ACAL), I have represented the fairly consistent opinion of child abuse solicitors in campaigning for mandatory reporting.”
“Personally, I believe it makes sense to place a legal obligation on those who are responsible for the care of children to report signs of abuse – especially as these people are the best-placed to recognise signs as they develop.”