The government will introduce legislation to tighten up the laws
on child killers, home office minister Paul Goggins has promised,
writes Sally Gillen.
Goggins made the commitment during a recent debate at
Westminster on a Law Commission report which recommends changes
that would prevent parents and carers who kill their children
escaping murder convictions. But the home office was unable to
confirm when legislation likely to be contained in a domestic
violence bill in the Queen’s Speech would be introduced.
The report, published in September, is the culmination of a
five-year debate on the issue. It proposes two new offences:
killing by cruelty, which would carry a 14-year sentence and
failure to protect a child, which would carry a seven-year
The move is designed to help juries in cases where it cannot be
determined which of two or more people may have struck the fatal
blow leading to the death of a child.
In such cases, suspects are often convicted of child cruelty
instead of manslaughter or murder, a crime which carries a much
According to the report, between 1997 and 2000, about three
children a week – half aged under six months – died or
suffered a serious injury. However, 61 per cent of these cases
resulted in no prosecution.
Of those that did result in prosecution, only a small proportion
were for murder, manslaughter or causing grievous bodily harm.
The killers of John Smith, a four-year-old who died after six
months of abuse at the hands of the foster parents he was placed
with by Brighton and Hove social services department, received
eight-year sentences for cruelty instead of murder because each