BBK Manifesto: Introduce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse | Bolt Burdon Kemp BBK Manifesto: Introduce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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BBK Manifesto: Introduce mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse

Countless children have missed out on better protection against abusers as the Government drags its feet over a new mandatory reporting policy, BBK says, as we call for an urgent change in the law.

In 2022 – already seven years after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse began – it was recommended people in positions of trust should be compelled by law to report child sexual abuse. The Government consulted again at the end of 2023 on the details of this policy, to which we have responded.

Mandatory reporting is so important: the cost to society in preventing or reducing child sexual abuse by identifying cases earlier will be overwhelmingly positive, saving money, reducing harm to future generations and limiting the subsequent mental health, emotional and dependency problems which often arise for victims and survivors.

If this duty had already been in place, untold numbers of children may have already been better protected. It is vital this is introduced as soon as possible.

The Government published a response to the consultation in April 2024. I wrote about our views on their response here, believing they had missed an opportunity to create systemic change.

The Government stated the mandatory duty to report child sexual abuse will not be accompanied by criminal penalties if an individual fails to report, however a new criminal offence will be designed targeting punishment at those seeking to prevent the duty from being carried out. Should an individual seek to obstruct a reporter from carrying out their duty, they could face up to seven years imprisonment.

The Government has also provided a mechanism which can disapply the duty for disclosures made in very exceptional circumstances (for example, confidential helplines where the loss of confidentiality would fatally undermine the service model).

With the announcement of the General Election, it is unclear whether the Government will be able to implement their proposed changes. We are calling on whoever the next government is to ensure there is no further delay in the introduction of mandatory reporting of child abuse. We would also ask that they expand their response to the inquiry.

In our consultation response to the Government, we made it clear organisations should fall under the mandatory duty to report including social services and the police, however the Government has decided not to include organisational reporting at this time. We agree with other respondents that bringing forward a duty on individuals and not organisations or institutions represents a missed opportunity.

We also disagree with the Government’s decision not to make organisations financially liable for their employees who fail to report child sexual abuse. We suggest making organisations responsible for, and liable to be penalised for, their employees’ or volunteers’ breaches would lead to real impetus for organisational-wide change.

This blog is part of our #ChampioningChange Campaign, specifically, Bolt Burdon Kemp LLP’s 2024 Manifesto for Injured People. In this campaign we call for politicians and candidates to prioritise injured people as they go into the 2024 General Election. This work is informed by our clients’ experiences and our partnerships with charities which support our clients and others like them. If you would like to read more about our full manifesto you can do so here.


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