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child abuse loophole to be closed

23 June 2011

A legal loophole that could allow those who physically abuse children or vulnerable adults to escape justice is to be closed.

Sometimes a child or vulnerable adult is harmed at home, and it cannot be proved which of the adults living at the home actually perpetrated the harm. This problem was addressed to an extent in 2004. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act created the offence of ‘causing or allowing the death of a child or a vulnerable person’. Baby P’s mother, boyfriend and lodger were all successfully convicted under this act.

The proposal is now to extend this offence to cover serious physical harm. The CPS supports this. It believes many such cases currently go unprosecuted.

A Private Members Bill has received the Government’s backing, and will surely gain support from all quarters. However it will be more important to monitor how many prosecutions follow. The statute book is full of offences which are never used. Let us hope this does not become one of them.

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