Gillan wants to make child abuse reporting mandatory

Bucks Free Press: Cheryl Gillan Cheryl Gillan

CHERYL Gillan has repeated calls for a change in the law to make it an legal requirement to report suspected child sex abuse to the authorities.

The Chesham and Amersham MP said guidelines on reporting suspected or known abuse - which have been in place since the 1950s - do not work.

At the moment there is no obligation for schools or staff working in regulated activities with children to report suspected or known child abuse to the local authority for independent assessment.

She said the number of recent historical offences which have come to light, including abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, was proof the system needs overhauling.

Mrs Gillan previously spoke out against the lack of mandatory reporting in the wake of former headmaster Roland Wright being jailed for abusing five pupils at Caldicott Preparatory School in Farnham Common between 1959 and 1970.

Wright, now 83, was jailed for eight years in February and his victims said in the wake of his sentencing they could have been spared decades of the effects of child abuse if mandatory reporting had been in place.

And in a speech after the State Opening of Parliament this week Mrs Gillan said: "We should consider a law that requires professionals who work with children in regulated activities and who know, suspect, or have reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting child abuse to compulsorily inform the local authority designated officer or, in appropriate circumstances, children’s services. Failure to do so would be a criminal offence.

"At the moment, the guidance is frequently ignored. The legislation that the government have proposed on the protection of children could allow us to consider introducing this measure in this Bill at this time. I hope that they will at least consider that."

Mrs Gillan, who was a junior minister for Education and Employment in John Major's government in the mid 90s, added: "Since 1950, the reporting of suspected and known abuse of a child by a member of staff at a school or location of a similar regulated activity has been entirely discretionary. Despite legislation in 2002, nothing has changed. There is still no legal requirement to report abuse of a child in an institutional setting. The statutory guidance says only that such abuses or allegations should be referred to or discussed with the local authority designated officer.

"Given the flood of non-recent cases of child abuse in schools that we see reported every week in the media, we now know that discretionary reporting does not work."

During her speech she also praised the work of the Mandate Now campaign, which is leading the call for the law to be changed.

The Mandate Now author, Tom Perry of Hyde Heath, was a victim of Wright's at Caldicott.

Mrs Gillan said: "Mandate Now has done some terrific work, of which I am very supportive - as are a number of MPs across the House."

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