Tuesday, 27 November 2012

What would solve Britain's abuse problems? Mandatory reporting?

Sounds so simple doesn't it? Solve almost overnight abuse in this country? Obviously it's not that simple. Or is it? So what is the spark of an idea?

Make the reporting of abuse mandatory, and a criminal offence?

I have recently been asked to help an international charity called Innocence in Danger who think that I am "pivotal" for some reason, I really don't know what, to their development.

About 4 months ago I was reading about the Penn State University case in Pennsylvania where abuse reporting is not mandatory. A football executive caught a coach abuse a boy in the showers. He did nothing, and the abuse continued. Years later after disclosure they were trying to prosecute him but failed due to lack of mandatory reporting or a criminal sanction, so they tried to use perjury instead. It was so obvious that someone in responsibility knew what was going on and turned a blind eye.

A few years ago Baby P died due to abuse by the parents and negligence on the part of the caring services. They sacked the head of Haringey Council and were later sued successfully for unfair dismissal by her lawyers. How different would it have been if there was a criminal offence of mandatory reporting of abuse?

I thought that research was necessary in order to find out if mandatory reporting is indeed a criminal offence in this country. I decided that it would be a really good campaign for a change in the law.

Yesterday there was a symposium at the Lloyd George Room of the Liberal Club in London. Very grand surroundings in order to launch the British arm of the charity.

Sue, my paralegal did some excellent research in advance, which, staggeringly discovered:-
  1. USA have had mandatory reporting as a criminal offence in all states since 1963. It does vary, however between states, and the category of person who is obliged to report. In all states professionals who do not report abuse commit an offence, whereas only some states make it an offence for members of the public.
  2. USA Australia and Canada are the main countries that pursue this as an approach, although a range of other countries including Argentina, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Spain and Sri Lanka, failure to report is an offence.
So if it is good enough for a country as primitive as Rwanda, why have we not even copied our commonwealth allies? Is it that the powers at be worry about who the finger could point at, or am I being a tad cynical? Or is it the same old story of Britain being too cautious and traditional?

Just imagine the scenario.

The pope is accused in a former life of knowing about abuse, when he was in the position of supervision over other abusive priests, and failed to make a report to the authorities. Could the Pope end up in Court charged with criminal offences? (Did I read something like this in the news a while ago? I think I did)

The answer in some jurisdictions is "No", because sometimes there are time limits imposed on prosecutions of 1 year from the date of the offence.

I would like Britain to adopt the same law as most of the advanced legal systems around the world. We are, after all, the most respected legal jurisdiction, so why are our laws so out of step?

There are obviously details to be teased out. Should it be an offence to just believe, or does one have to "know" that an offence being committed. I would say the threshold should be fairly high in circumstances such at the Penn State University case.

There are laws, which have been brought in during the last 10 years designed to avoid cover ups, and place responsibility where it should lie such as:-
  1. Whistle blowing - it is no longer legal to sack someone for whistle blowing. Interestingly this was brought in directly owing to a Clywd employee who was sacked for blowing the whistle on the North Wales abuse scandal.
  2. Corporate manslaughter charges can be brought against Company Directors, where a fatal accident at work was caused due to reckless disregard with safety. 
So get writing to your MP, and watch this space. I think that, in the present abuse media frenzy, it is topical to amend the law ....we shall see.........

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