PRESS RELEASE 19 July 2013
Reporting child abuse is discretionary in the UK. ‘Law must change' say charities
NAPAC (the National Association for People Abused in Childhood) is leading a coalition of charities in the call for legislation to introduce ‘Mandatory reporting'. The law would make failure to report suspected or known child abuse in ‘Regulated Activities' a criminal offence. Regulated Activities include schools, sports clubs linked to national sports bodies, children's homes and faith organisations*.
Pete Saunders, Chief Executive of NAPAC said: "Mandatory reporting is long overdue in this country. Parents will probably be shocked to learn that that such legislation does not already exist. Staff who suspect abuse may report it, but face no sanction for failing to report. In places such as Hillside First School, Downside, St Benedict's, Stony Dean School and Little Teds Nursery, abuse went unreported to the authorities, leaving children at risk of further abuse.
People who work with children are under no statutory obligation to report known or suspected child abuse, even rape. They may decide to do so, but it is entirely discretionary and there is no sanction for failing to report. As a result of non existence of law, staff who do report are whistleblowers and have no statutory protection when speaking out in the most challenging of circumstances.
The only area of the UK where mandatory reporting does exist is Northern Ireland. Barry Gardiner MP (Brent North) was responsible for its strict application to educational settings during his time there as a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office in Tony Blair's Labour government.
Barry Gardiner said: "It should be mandatory to report, because these things must not be covered up. This is what has led to all the problems in the Church. It is what enables people to go on and commit offences again."
Serious Case Reviews of child abuse cases have repeatedly revealed that professionals and others suspected years before that abuse was taking place but failed to inform the authorities.
Anne Lawrence, a barrister in educational and community care law, said: "The current statutory framework and government guidance makes very clear that decisions on whether to report concerns and allegations of child abuse to external agencies is discretionary, it is not mandatory. The worst that can happen to a person who fails to report an allegation or concern is that when the truth comes out, often many years later, that person may be disciplined by the professional body to which he or she belongs. Such a system does not and cannot protect children from abuse. Mandatory reporting would require all concerns, reports and allegations of child abuse to be reported to external agencies such as the LADO and thus ensure appalling child protection failings such as Hillside do not happen in the future."
James Rhodes, classical pianist, supports the Mandate Now campaign. James tweeted "Reporting child rape is discretionary in the UK. Sign here to help. www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/educationgovuk-introduce-law-requiring-adults-working-with-children-to-report-alleged-abuse-mandatenow Would've helped me a lot as a kid. Pls RT." He stars in forthcoming Channel 4 documentary "James Rhodes: Notes from the Inside", which will be broadcast on Channel4 on 24 July 2013.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Mandate Now petition went live on 1 May 2013. http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/educationgovuk-introduce-law-requiring-adults-working-with-children-to-report-alleged-abuse-mandatenow #MandateNow
Countries which operate mandatory reporting include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Sweden, USA, and now the Republic of Ireland which on the 10th November 2012 held a referendum which approved mandatory reporting.
*Regulated Activities include schools, sports clubs linked to national sports bodies, children's homes and faith organisations and similar institutions as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 where children are cared for by adults other than their parents.
MANDATE NOW COALITION
NAPAC - national charity supporting adults who have been abused in any way as children. www.napac.org.uk
SURVIVORS TRUST - national umbrella agency for over 130 specialist rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse support organisations throughout the UK and Ireland. www.thesurvivorstrust.org
SURVIVORS UK - helps men who have been sexually violated and raises awareness of their needs. www.survivorsuk.org
RESPOND - works with children and adults with learning disabilities who have experienced abuse or trauma.www.respond.org.uk
INNOCENCE IN DANGER - International Charity recently arrived in the UK which is dedicated to the eradication of child abuse and sex trafficking. www.innocenceendanger.org/en/
Pete Saunders, Chief Executive of NAPAC Tel 203 176 0560, mobile 07977 975402, email firstname.lastname@example.org