Thursday, 14 February 2013

Emotional Neglect

I have to say I find the continued fascination with the idea of making ‘emotional neglect’ a criminal offence in England to be a worrying distraction.

The latest contribution, from Labour MP Jenny Chapman, is riddled with confusion. 

She says that: “The differences between the two legal codes (civil and criminal) present real difficulties for police and social workers …” But she does not say what these are, largely I suspect because she doesn’t know. 

And surely she cannot be arguing that the civil and criminal law should be the same. But, if not, what exactly does she mean by talking of “align(ing) the criminal law with the civil code”?

What is not such a puzzle is the mess that would be created by trying to make “emotional neglect” a criminal offence. I predict that there would be a string of botched prosecutions of people suffering from various forms of mental illness, with all sorts of legal arguments about how culpable they are for damage to their children. That would bring child protection into disrepute and serve no good purpose. It would not help any child.