Monday, 15 July 2013

Mandatory Reporting - the latest

Picture courtesy of Nick Ballon of the Guardian
Interest in our campaign of mandatory reporting is slowly gathering momentum - in summary we are pushing government to make it a criminal offence to fail to report abuse that someone is aware of taking place to a child. We have narrowed the offence to those professionals whose job it is to look afer children. You can sign our petition here. So far we have nearly 2000 signature.

It is illegal in most commonwealth countries - Canada, & Australia, as well as Argentina, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Sweden, USA, and now the Republic of Ireland, which has recently held a referendum found to be in overwhelming support of the new law. In these countries, if you do not report abuse you are aware of it is a crminal offence.

Louise Tickle of the Guardian wrote this excellent article on the subject, which is centred around the recent appalling case of Nigel Leat who abused girls at Hillside School under the noses of teachers. It is entitled "Sex abuse in schools: the parents who want a change to the law." Complaints were made of the abuse to the headmaster, who did not pass them onto the police or social services. Leat hoodwinked everyone with his charm, and was not suspected for years. Leat was culpably negligent, and went to prison for an indefinite period of time two years ago.

A serious case review heavily criticised the headmaster for not passing on this complaints to either the police or the local authority. They allege that staff registered their complaints and made about 30 different complaints about Leat, 11 of which went to the headmaster. None of the complaints went anywhere. The point is that if the head had acted on any of the complaints, Leat would have been reported to the police, year earlier, and scores of children would have been saved from years of abuse.

No one wants to prosecute scores of headmasters/teachers, or social workers who turn a blind eye, because most of them are hardworking dedicated adults. It is the deterrent factor which will work on the minds in charge of child care, and encourage them to report.

Think about it - a private fee paying school with a good reputation has a child abuse problem. The headmaster knows that, if he reports the abuse to the LADO, there will be an investigation, scandal, and no one will want to send their children to the school. What does he do?

  1. Report the paedophile and risk the downfall of his school, OR
  2. Do nothing in the hope that the problem goes away. This way he keeps the pupils, his income, his, but the abuse carries on.
One can see that whichever he chooses there is a conflict. If he knows that if he doesn't report at the time, he will be committing a criminal offence and risk going to prison, then surely that will act on his mind and encourage him to contact the LADO (Local Authority Disclosure Officer).

The government line is that is not necessary to have a criminal sanction for this and that they can rely upon regulations, which provide for the very guidelines which are not being obeyed it seems. There are very clear guidelines which say abuse should always be reported to the police.

The teachers associations are one of the opponents. They do not want their members prosecuted and are lobbying the government hard not to legislate, but rather to relay on the internal guidelines. This was the attitude to the press for years, and look what has happened to them?

The Home Affairs Committee report into “Child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming” was published on 10 June 2013 and Recommendation No.36 says :

We also recommend that the Government examine the Florida Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act passed in 2012 in order to ascertain whether the mandatory reporting of child abuse could, and should, be implemented in England and Wales.
One of our supporters Jame Rhodes, the pianist, will be broadcasting a fabulous programme on Channel 4 on 24th July at 10pm. He will be talking about his childhood abuse. He is advocating a change in the law to make mandatory reporting a criminal offence, and has said so on Twitter.


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