The following Letter to the Editor was published in The Times on Friday 19th October.
The Government should act without delay to pass a law on mandatory reporting of known or suspected child abuse
Sir, Child sex abuse cases have some very important similarities. Many cases involve abuse that occurred in an institutional context, usually in a school. In these cases the abuser was able to work himself into a position of trust, and the management of the institution had knowledge or suspicions of abuses and did not pass those concerns on to the authorities. In every case, the abuser was able to commit further serious crimes after those concerns had first come to light. Had the concerns been promptly reported to the authorities, it is at least likely that the abuses could have been stopped at a much earlier stage, and much avoidable suffering prevented.
Unbelievably, Britain has no law requiring schools or other institutions responsible for the care of children to report allegations or incidents of child sex abuse. A head teacher can know that one of his or her staff has sexually assaulted one of the pupils and he or she has no legal obligation to report anything to anybody. This has happened in some cases.
A law on mandatory reporting of child abuse was passed last year in the Republic of Ireland, with a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment for failing to report abuse. A similar law is urgently needed in Britain to ensure that people can report without fear of losing their jobs, and that their employers are prompt in passing those concerns to the authorities.
The Government should act without delay to pass a law on mandatory reporting of known or suspected child abuse in all environments where adults act in loco parentis.
Jonathan West, Lucy Duckworth, www.seechanges.org; Ken Acons, Rosminian Boys Group; Piers Brogan, Chairman of Rosminian Boys Group; Bob Brecher, Professor, University of Brighton; Helen Charlton, Minster and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors; Tracey Emmott, director, Emmott Snell Solicitors; Michael Ghersie, chartered accountant; Valerie Gibbs, vicar; David Greenwood, chairman of www.stopchurchchildabuse.co.uk; Phil Johnson, Eastbourne Survivors Group; Rory Johnston, Rosminian Boys Group; Anne Lawrence, barrister, Atlas Chambers; Francis Lionnet, communications consultant; Donald MacFaul, Dere Street Barristers; Olenka Frenkiel, investigative journalist; Clint McMillian, Rosminian Boys Group; John Poppleton, product manager; Peter Saunders, CEO, Napac; Richard Scorer, partner, Pannone LLP Solicitors; Michael Sheridan, accountant; Sam Simeonides, Rosminian Boys Group; Matthew Starrett-Bigg, Rosminian Boys Group; Anna Whiting, campaigner; Clare Whiting, art director; Julian Whiting, ex-police officer, campaigner; Mrs Lorena Whiting, campaigner; The Rev Peter Whiting, Baptist minister; Sophie Whiting, teacher; Alex Wilson, Rosminian Boys Group; Rory O’Neill, Rosminian Boys Group