Law Commission moves to strengthen child cruelty sentences

Failing to
protect a child from serious harm could carry a maximum seven-year
prison sentence under proposals from the Law Commission.

The official law
reform body has published a report and draft bill calling for
changes in the law surrounding child deaths and serious injury
resulting from abuse. It recommends that if a person who has
“responsibility” for and is “connected”
with a child fails to take “reasonable” steps to
prevent that child being seriously injured or killed, they could
face up to seven years in prison.

But the offence would
only apply when the adult had been aware that there was a
“real risk” that the child could come to harm. Social
workers and teachers would not be subject to the new

Child cruelty
resulting in or significantly contributing to a child’s death
could also carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, as opposed
to the current 10-year maximum sentence. Anyone with responsibility
for a child at the time of death or injury would also have a
statutory duty to help the courts and the police.

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