Belfast Telegraph

Friday 28 November 2014

Mandatory reporting of abuse urged

There is a serious case review into the murder of four-year-old Daniel Pelka by his mother and stepfather
There is a serious case review into the murder of four-year-old Daniel Pelka by his mother and stepfather

More than 50,000 people have signed a petition calling for a new law forcing people who work with children to report suspected child abuse.

The signatures will be handed to 10 Downing Street later ahead of the publication of the serious case review into the murder of four-year-old Daniel Pelka by his mother and stepfather. It comes as the NSPCC launches a new campaign, Now I Know, to put ChildLine in every primary school in a bid to stop abuse.

Paula Barrow, a mother-of-two from Manchester, who launched the petition on the Change.org website after hearing about the Pelka case, said she wanted a new law removing "uncertainty" over how professionals should act.

Mrs Barrow said that after talking to specialist lawyers she wanted to see a system akin to that for corporate manslaughter. She said: "What they say is that criminal prosecution would not be imposed in all but the most exceptional cases. It is the preventative effect that is important here, and the certainty of the requirement (to report suspected abuse).

"I was shocked and deeply affected when I heard about Daniel Pelka. I was aware there was a law regarding reporting abuse in France and assumed there must be a law in this country that required people working with children to report appropriately. I was shocked to find it was not the case."

The trial of Magdelena Luczak, 27, and Mariusz Krezolek, 34, heard that despite seeing a doctor in hospital for a broken arm, arriving at school with bruises and facial injuries, and teachers repeatedly witnessing Daniel fishing in bins and stealing from children's lunchboxes for scraps of food, there was no intervention by any of the agencies responsible for child protection.

They were jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years each last month for what the judge at Birmingham Crown Court called the "incomprehensible" murder of the defenceless youngster in Coventry, Warwickshire.

Several charities support the call for a change in the law.

Fay Maxted, chief executive of The Survivors Trust, said: "Spotting the signs of child abuse can be challenging, and all too often reports that should be made are not because of misplaced loyalty to the institution or friendship with the alleged perpetrator, as Serious Case Reviews have shown in the past. If law is introduced, staff will have no doubt what to do, and they would have legal protection from recrimination which presently can follow when a member of staff takes the conscientious step of reporting."

Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers and adviser to the Innocence in Danger charity, added: "Child protection framework is outdated and leaves children at risk. The introduction of mandatory reporting would far better protect children and staff when concerns arise. It is only when concerns are reported that a child stands any chance of abuses being addressed."

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