The Government is currently considering whether to introduce 'emotional cruelty to a child' as a new criminal offence.
Current law, which is over 80 years old, focuses on the physical effects of abuse only to a child. Physical abuse is of course much easier to identify than emotional harm which may be why nothing has been done to address the law for such a long time.
Emotional harm would include someone deliberately trying to harm a child’s intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development. For example, a child witnessing domestic violence would fall into this new category of emotional harm which could be a criminal offence very shortly. The very damaging impact of any emotional harm on a child cannot be underestimated.
The change will no doubt be welcomed by many who practice in child protection.
A child can be removed from his or her family if it is believed that the child is at risk of suffering significant harm. When a child is removed from his or her family, or at risk of removal, experts such as social workers, guardians and psychologists are involved in the legal proceedings which are commonly known as care proceedings.
These proceedings look at whether or not harm has been suffered. If harm has been suffered the proceedings address whether harm is on-going and where that child should live in the long term. If emotional harm is a new criminal offence then there will be a clear definition, for experts to all be working off one definition for this category of harm will no doubt assist greatly and narrow a number of issues.
If you believe a child may be suffering any harm do not hesitate to contact your local Social Services.
If you require specialist legal advice in this area for a child connected to you please contact Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help you.
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