Friday, 10 May 2013

Hoarding, Emotional Neglect and Child Cruelty

Those who complain about the supposed inflexibility of the child cruelty criminal law in England should be aware of the case reported by the BBC concerning a couple whose home was over-filled with junk that they had hoarded, resulting in their children having to eat on the stairs. We are told that they have been successfully prosecuted for child cruelty.

I am not clear that the use of the criminal law in these circumstances is appropriate. I can’t help feeling that parents who engage in obsessional behaviour should be helped, not punished. But perhaps I am not in tune with the Zeitgeist.

However this case clearly shows, contrary to what has been recently argued, that the current criminal law on child cruelty can be used against parents who neglect, rather than those who abuse; and that it can be used where the impact on the child appears to be emotional, not physical.