The government is to make emotional cruelty a crime, it emerged today.
The proposed change in child neglect laws, revealed in The Telegraph, would make it a criminal offence for the parents or carers to harm a child’s “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.
The law, which will be announced in the Queen’s Speech this June, would making humiliating children, forcing them to witness domestic violence or other forms of emotional abuse a criminal offence.
Action for Children, which has been campaigning for the emotional neglect of children to be criminalised, welcomed the news.
“This is a monumental step forward for thousands of children who we know suffer from emotional abuse and countless others whose desperate situations have yet to come to light,” said the charity’s chief executive Tony Hawkhead.
“I’ve met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved. The impact is devastating and can lead to life-long mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.”
“We are one of the last countries in the western world to recognise all forms of child abuse as a crime. Years of campaigning have been rewarded, the government has listened and this law will change lives.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “The government believes protecting children from harm is fundamental and that child cruelty is an abhorrent crime which should be punished.”
“Every child should be able to grow up in a safe environment – we are considering ways the law can support this.”