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Proposed abuse law a backward step

4 November 2013

Keir Starmer has reignited the debate over a ‘mandatory reporting’ law for concerns over sexual abuse, suggesting it should be a criminal offence to fail to report suspicions.

I do not see what this would achieve. Does it guarantee safer children or will it lead to a deluge of police referrals from professionals who will no longer engage with safeguarding concerns, but simply pass on absolutely everything for fear of breaking the law?

This law is not aimed at the vast majority of professionals who manage safeguarding concerns appropriately, but at the minority who do not. That minority already face the risk of a bar from teaching and thus the end of their careers for failing to act – as happened to the head responsible for Nigel Leat. Would the risk of a fine or worse have changed that outcome?

As robust an approach as new laws always sound, there is a real risk it could lead to a weakening of the current safeguarding standards within schools.

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