A legal loophole that could allow those who physically abuse children or vulnerable adults to escape justice is to be closed, the Government announced today
There is already an offence (Section 5 of the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004) which makes it a criminal offence to cause or allow the death of a child or vulnerable adult. It was used successfully to prosecute Baby P’s mother, boyfriend and lodger – where it was clear one of them caused Peter’s death, but police could not prove which of them was directly responsible. As a result they were all found guilty of causing or allowing his death.
However, causing serious physical harm, short of death, is not covered by this offence- meaning that those responsible could evade justice. That is why the Government has announced that it is backing Sir Paul Beresford’s Private Members’ Bill which will fill this gap in the law and help to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of society are kept safe.
Justice Minister Crispin Blunt said:
'The Government intends to close the gap in the law which allows those who harm children and vulnerable adults to escape unpunished. We want to do everything possible to ensure that the most vulnerable members of society are kept safe in their homes and those that abuse their power do not evade justice.
'This is why we are giving Sir Paul Beresford's Bill our backing.'
The new offence will be used in cases where a child or vulnerable adult is deliberately seriously harmed and it is clear that one of a closed group of people has inflicted the injuries, but there is not enough evidence to prove who is responsible. This loophole in the law has enabled those who injure a child or vulnerable adult to escape justice by remaining silent or by blaming or lying for each other.
CPS data suggests there were more than 20 cases in 2010 where children and vulnerable adults have been seriously injured – broken bones, brain injuries – while their attacker has walked free. This new legislation will stop this injustice.