Scotland to introduce emotional child abuse law

Children|March 3rd 2017

Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are considering a bill which would define and criminalise the neglect and emotional abuse of children.

The measure was introduced by Early Years Minister Mark McDonald of the Scottish National Party (SNP). He said the Children and Young Persons Act, first enacted in 1937, contained “archaic language … [which] has resulted in difficulties in prosecuting offences”.

McDonald proposed this bill following two reports on child protection in Scotland. They concluded that while the system worked well overall, there were “opportunities to strengthen all aspects of the system to better protect … children”.

One of these reports was written by former head of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), Catherine Dyer. The COPFS is a department in the Scottish government which deals with the prosecution of crimes. In Dyer’s report, she made a series of recommendations to improve the system. These included the creation of a child protection register, a national child protection leadership group and a new set of standards for case reviews.

McDonald told MSPs that his proposal would put all of Dyer’s recommendations into effect. He said that in one year’s time, if “there is little evidence of real and substantial progress then [he] will not hesitate to bring forward legislation to provide an appropriate statutory underpinning”.

The measure was widely supported by members of the opposition parties, with Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur praising the SNP’s willingness to take on board all of the report’s recommendations.

Meanwhile in England, the Public Accounts Committee has criticised the government for being “too slow” in their efforts to improve child protection measures. They noted that only 23 per cent of local authorities had been rated “good” by Ofsted in this area and that “by no standards can this be seen as an improvement”.

Photo of the Scottish Parliament building by morebyless via Flickr under a Creative Commons licence.

Author: Stowe Family Law


  1. Andrew says:

    Is this really a matter for the criminal law? Where does incompetence end and culpability begin?

  2. keith says:

    “considering a bill which would define and criminalise the neglect and emotional abuse of children”.

    As always it sounds great on paper.
    but dishonest Social workers will be rubbing their hands after hearing this. gives them even more leverage to remove children from good parents who just need a little support etc. but the SS are not in the business of Supporting families. Only Adoption and fostering because thats where the money is. a Sick and twisted system full of liars and corrupt people.

    • Carrie Anne williams says:

      Well Said they take kids as it is on risk of future harm or neglect ss will love this

      • Katie says:

        I absolutely agree with you on that one. These Social Workers are probably the worst offenders for emotional abuse of children They take them from their family, stop all contact with their nearest relatives, i,e, grandparents and usually obstruct the father from getting any contact with the child – even when he is the innocent party.
        I personally think children should seek legal advice and sue the social work for depriving them of contact with their family.
        However, social workers will justify their actions but to be honest, these people have more problems than the families they are supporting. They think they are above the law and will challenge highly qualified professionals – its laughable, considering they have a social science degree. They also think they are above the law. One only has to look at the comments made against them in a high profile case;
        ‘The committee described other social workers, including Ms Bate’s boss in the council’s child protection team, Karen Pedder, as “defensive” and “evasive” when they gave evidence to the hearing.
        And we are meant to trust our children with these people?
        Personally, I think the whole system needs overhauled. and they need to get rid of these people who are ruining families and the lives of children.
        Their intentions might be good but when they get it wrong, (which they usually do) the children are the ones who suffer.

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