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Proposed changes to the crime of 'wilful neglect' to children

Proposed changes to the crime of 'wilful neglect' to children

The cross-bench peer, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, has been working on an amendment to the draft Crime and Courts Bill currently being examined by MP's.

The retired senior judege  and former President of the Family Division of the High Court has been involved with the charity Action for Children in defining the broader crime of 'maltreatment' to replace the current legal concept of 'wilful neglect'.

'Wilful neglect' dates originally back to the Victorian poor laws. It is a crime in which  it must be shown that a responsible adult has assaulted or abandoned a child, or exposed a child to injury or suffering.

The new definition of 'maltreatment' would include harm to a child's "physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development".

Dame Clare Tickell, head of the Action for Children charity, emphasised the need for a law which would give children the necessary protection, and described the proposed  reforms as a 'straightforward and crucial step'.

There have been a number of cases in which authorities have been seen as not stepping in early enough to protect children in their care - most notably the shocking Baby P case. Last year, Action for Children produced a report which found that a high percentage of social workers and police officers felt unable to get involved in suspected cases of abuse and neglect of children. The proposed new law of maltreatment is aimed at helping those children.

By Claire Clark on 27 Feb 2013, 10:56 AM

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