Butler-Sloss calls for reform of child neglect laws

Retired senior judge Baroness Butler-Sloss has helped draft a legal amendment which would make significant changes to child neglect laws.

The baroness, a former president of the Family Division, has worked on an amendment to the draft Crime and Courts Bill, currently under scrutiny by MPs. The amendment, development in conjunction with charity Action for Children, would replace the current legal concept of ‘wilful neglect’ with a broader crime of ‘child maltreatment’,  the Telegraph reports

‘Wilful neglect’ is currently defined by the Children and Young Person Act 1933 but actually dates back to 1868 and Victorian poor laws. A conviction for ‘child neglect’ requires proof that a responsible adult has assaulted or abandoned a child, or exposed them to injury or suffering.

The new definition would significantly broaden the crime to include harm to a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.

Baroness Butler-Sloss, now a life peer, explains:

“The current law explicitly fails to recognise the full range of harm done to neglected children, and creates problems of practice and interpretation for legal professionals. This cannot be our best effort as law makers at protecting neglected children, and so I am determined to see through a reform of the law in this area. I invite my fellow parliamentarians to support this as a matter of great importance and urgency.”

Dame Clare Tickell is chief executive of Action for Children. She said:

“For the most serious cases [of neglect] we need a law that is fit for purpose and that will give vulnerable children have all the protection they need. The solutions to child neglect in theUKare manifold, but this is one straightforward and crucial step in the journey.”

Photo by JosephB via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence

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