Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Mandatory Reporting

The Irish Government is introducing laws to make not reporting child sexual abuse or other serious crimes against a child a criminal offence ( Someone withholding information could be fined or imprisoned for up to five years.

I believe that government and professional guidance should be that anyone suspecting any form of child abuse and neglect should report it, but I do not think making failure to report a criminal offence is a good idea. There is a real danger that the threat of imprisonment will result in professionals reporting cases that do not meet accepted thresholds, just to be sure. That could overload children’s services and so deny some children the level of service they deserve and require.

I believe that the law is a blunt instrument for ensuring that cases of child abuse are appropriately reported. It is better, I think, to help all concerned to be better able to recognise child abuse and neglect and to be more aware of the consequences for the child of not taking action.