A loophole in the law which leaves 16 and 17 year-olds unprotected from cruelty and exploitation should be closed, a charity has claimed.
According to the Children’s Society, while most laws regard people as adults once they turn 18, protections against neglect and ill-treatment stops when a child turns 16. The charity claims that this loophole means that 16 and 17 year olds “must fend for themselves” when dealing with cruelty in the household.
As a result of the current law, they argue, prosecutions against parents and carers who are negligent or abusive is much harder when the child is 16 or 17.
In 2010, a couple was sent to prison for allowing their adopted children to be sexually abused. The children in that case were aged 10 and 13 but, had they been older, it would not have been possible to prosecute the couple for child cruelty, the charity claimed.
Chief Executive of the Children’s Society Matthew Reed said it was “nonsensical and unacceptable” that adults cannot be prosecuted for acting against older children in a way which “would be considered cruelty if the victim was 15”.
He added that if the government was truly “serious about stopping child cruelty – including child sexual exploitation – they must act” when Parliament reconvenes in January.
The charity has urged MPs to close the legal loophole by amending the Serious Crime Bill currently making its way through Parliament. Other additions to the bill include Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposal to criminalise coercive control in relationships.
Earlier this week, a report from Coram Voice claimed that local authorities were failing young people, which left them vulnerable to abuse and homelessness.