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Reporting child abuse suspicions ‘should be mandatory’

Professionals who do not report suspicions of child abuse should be prosecuted, the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has claimed.

Under current law, it is not mandatory to report such suspicions, although social workers, teachers, doctors and other professionals who regularly come into contact with children are encouraged to do so. By contrast, a number of other countries, including Australia, Canada and the US, have already made reporting suspected child abuse a legal requirement.

Keir Starmer told BBC Panorama that it was time to “plug a gap in the law” and introduce a fine or jail sentence for anyone failing to disclose possible abuse.

“It’s a very simple proposition. If you’re in a position of authority or responsibility in relation to children, and you have cause to believe that a child has been abused, or is about to be abused, you really ought to do something about it. 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.”

He added: “I would have a reasonably broad category of individuals that were subject to the law.”

Keir Starmer’s five year term as DPP ended last week.

The move has, the BBC reports, attracted support from both the Catholic Church and the Church of England. But the government insists that “mandatory reporting is not the answer”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education said:

“Professionals should refer immediately to social care when they are concerned about a child. This happens every year in many thousands of cases and numbers of referrals have increased over recent years. Other countries have tried mandatory reporting and there is no evidence to show that it is a better system for protecting children.”

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Stitchedup says:

    Starmer is positively dangerous, time to plug the gap between his lips!! What social worker, health care professional, teacher or any decent person for that matter wouldn’t report child abuse. If they don’t it’s probably because they’re not convinced it is child abuse.

  2. Paul says:

    We could all report out concerns about each other to a state-backed Stasi. Get some East Germans in to show us how it’s done and set up the filing system. A few more mob killings of innocents mistaken for paedos, and we’d be away. We could relaunch Bonfire Night.

    I’m sure social services will love the zillions of extra referrals that this would bring in.

    Starmer is a cuckoo.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Once again, I have to agree with the common sense voiced in the above posts.

    Such ideas may sound really superb and innocent on the surface, but they actually do nothing but plant seeds of fear, suspicion, distrust that lead to the mob mentalities that history ought to have made us familiar with.

    All this talk about abuse of late makes one wonder to what extent real abuses (abuses of power at all levels of government, financial sector, police, social services) are being covered up. Authorities have a history of introducing laws that criminalize the populace when they themselves are engaging in criminal actions.

    Needless to say, introducing such a law would be absurd. In the overwhelming majority of cases, it ought to lead to mothers throughout the country being accused of all sorts of things, since they are still the majority care-providers. But given that mothers are routinely excused all sorts of abuses, once again I can only see such a law having its (desired) effect in cases where it is convenient to point the finger at a dad.

    Once again, why not try to determine why child abuse has become so rampant in Britain. Is it not partly because fathers have been pushed out so badly, leaving kids growing up without models of how parents acting together would make care-giving easier?

  4. Paul says:

    Consider this para. in the Children Act 1989 Part 2 (4)

    “The rule of law that a father is the natural guardian of his legitimate child is abolished.”

    When children don’t have guardians they are wide open to predation and harm.

    Jurisprudential evolution derived from the Children Act is one of the drivers behind the massive problems around children we are now witnessing in UK society. Starmer’s witless contribution is to call for more bad law to cure the ills of existing bad law. These guys haven’t got a clue.

  5. Luke says:

    I agree with the consensus, if you are the sort of person who doesn’t report child abuse when they see it then clearly you are going to be the sort of person who will deny having any knowledge at all when questioned – so Starmer’s idea is just silly and is not going to work.

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