Child abuse legal loophole to be closed

A legal loophole that could allow those who physically abuse children to escape justice is to be closed, the government has announced.

Under section five of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, it is an offence to cause or allow the death of a child. This was used to prosecute the mother, boyfriend and lodger involved in Peter Connelly’s death when police could not prove which of them was directly responsible.

But causing serious harm, short of death, is not covered by this offence, prompting the government to back a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Sir Paul Beresford.

Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: “The government intends to close the gap in the law that allows those who harm children and vulnerable adults to escape unpunished. We want to do everything possible to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are kept safe in their homes and those who abuse their power do not evade justice.”
Click here to find out more!

The new offence will be used in cases where a child is deliberately seriously harmed and it is clear that one of a group of people has inflicted the injuries, but there is not enough evidence to prove who is responsible.

Andrew Flanagan, chief executive of the NSPCC, said: “This is a crucial development that will hopefully bring greater protection for children at risk of being seriously harmed by the people who should be caring for them. Closing this loophole should stop adults getting away with inflicting dreadful injuries on vulnerable children.

“This move by the government and the efforts of Sir Paul Beresford are especially welcomed by the NSPCC as we have long campaigned for the introduction of such a law.”

Data from the Crown Prosecution Service suggests there were more than 20 cases in 2010 where children and vulnerable adults have been seriously injured resulting in broken bones and brain injuries, while their attacker has not been brought to justice.