Child abuse loophole closed

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The Act extends the crime of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult, to causing or allowing that child or vulnerable adult to suffer serious physical harm.

Section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 created an offence of causing or allowing the death of a child or vulnerable adult. That offence was created to deal with cases where it was clear that one of a number of adults in a household was responsible for the death of a child or vulnerable adult in that household but it could not be proved which.

Regrettably the amendment is not retrospective, but it does enable the police to prosecute two carers, where it is clear that one stood by whilst the other abused the child. This is a particular problem where the cause of a child's injuries are uncertain, and the police are presented with two people in the same household both blaming each other.

Arguably this Act opens up the possibility of suing one's parents, where one stands by and watches the other parent carrying out the abuse. Certainly the common law would, in theory, allow such a claim, but a claim based on a criminal conviction under the 2012 Act would be very much stronger.

Malcolm Johnson

Associate - Personal Injury team

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