It is sensible to amend the law to ensure that the offence of “causing or allowing” applies in cases where a child is injured, as well as those in which a child dies. So we must welcome the new offence, under the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Act 2012. From next week child abusers in England and Wales could be found guilty of the new offence of deliberately causing or allowing serious physical harm to a child or vulnerable adult and face up to 10 years in prison.
I thought some of the coverage of these developments was a bit sloppy. The whole point of the new law is that it is designed to deal with just those situations where two or more carers, having the care of a child who has suffered non-accidental injury, opt to stay silent or to make mutual allegations. And a jury still has to be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant either caused the injury or was, or ought to have been, aware of the risk to the child, failed to take reasonable steps to protect the child and that in circumstances the defendant foresaw or ought to have foreseen the injury.
One BBC report (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18638734 ) proclaimed:
“From Monday anyone who deliberately causes or allows serious physical harm to a child or vulnerable adult faces up to 10 years in prison.”
That sounds as if hitherto it has not proved possible to prosecute anyone who caused non-accidental injuries to a child, which is, of course, manifestly false! A similar misleading impression is given in the video clip (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18640386).
I hope and expect that the new law will be used sparingly, with most child abusers being prosecuted for assault in the traditional way.