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.”