Covering up child abuse should be a criminal offence


The NSPCC charity is calling for a duty on institutions, such as hospitals and children’s homes, to report child abuse.

Currently there are no specific mandatory regulations in the UK requiring professionals to report suspicions about child abuse to the authorities.

The charity’s chief executive Peter Wanless, who is leading a review into how the Home Office handled historical allegations of child abuse, wants covering up of abuse to made a criminal offence.

Previously the NSPCC had opposed all forms of mandatory reporting of abuse.

The NSPCC is concentrating on known abuse, whereas people normally only have suspicions of abuse, and mandatory reporting for residential settings, which covers a minority of children.

Peter Wanless said, ‘Recently we have witnessed a disturbing number of cases of abuse in institutions. We have concluded that the balance between the support for staff to do the right thing and the challenge if they do not, must be out of kilter.

‘We want a change in the law specifically to prevent child abuse cover-ups. We believe anyone who tries to hide such incidents should face criminal changes. The reputation of an organisation should never be put above the safety of a child.’

He added, ‘A culture of openness to challenge, transparency and well-trained staff are crucial too.

‘Our focus for criminalisation is on cover up, not the merest suspicion that a child might have been harmed.’

The charity’s call follows a proposal from Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Walmsley to amend the Serious Crimes Bill to make reporting of sexual or physical abuse mandatory for all institutions.

Every Child Update