Parents who emotionally abuse their children could soon face up to 10 years in jail
Mar 30, 2014
By Josh Layton
New proposals would make anything that intentionally harmed a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development” a criminal offence
Parents who emotionally abuse their children could face prosecution for the first time under a new “Cinderella Law”.
Starving offspring of love and affection could lead to up to 10 years in prison in a move to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech in early June.
Currently, the law on child neglect, which affects as many as one in ten children, covers physical harm only.
Under the new proposals, anything that intentionally harmed a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development” would be a crime.
Offences could include deliberately ignoring a child, damaging their emotional growth by not showing them any love and forcing them to see domestic violence.
Police would be able to intervene earlier before children suffer physical or sexual abuse, it is hoped.
The charity Action for Children said reform of “Victorian” child neglect laws “will change lives”.
Sir Tony Hawkhead, the charity’s chief executive, said: “I’ve met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved.
“The impact is devastating and can lead to lifelong mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.
“We are one of the last countries in the West to recognise all forms of child abuse as a crime.”
The campaign was spearheaded by MPs across the political spectrum, including the late Labour MP Paul Goggins as well as the Lib Dems’ Mark Williams.
Tory MP Robert Buckland, who is a part-time judge, also believes “the time for change is long overdue”.
He said: “Not too many years after the Brothers Grimm popularised the story of Cinderella, the offence of child neglect was introduced.
“Our criminal law has never reflected the full range of emotional suffering experienced by children who are abused by their parents or carers.
“The sad truth is that, until now, the Wicked Stepmother would have got away scot-free.”
Damian Green, minister for police and criminal justice, began gathering evidence to support the change last Autumn.
A department spokesman said: “The Government believes protecting children from harm is fundamental and that child cruelty is an abhorrent crime which should be punished.
“Every child should be able to grow up in a safe environment.
“We are considering ways the law can support this.”