A raft of new laws to protect children at risk of assault in their homes has been proposed in a report from the Law Commission. The report, tabled in Parliament today, included a law that would hold adults living in a household with a child they knew to be at risk of death, serious injury or sexual assault legally liable if they did not take reasonable steps to protect them. ..Liability for offences involving “cruelty to a child” would also be strengthened under the proposed changes, with a recommendation to increase the maximum penalty from five years’ jail to 10 years, and another to remove the defence that meant a person was not guilty if an offence was done out of ignorance or thoughtlessness.
Lobby group Family First spokesman Bob McCoskrie said his group agreed with the Law Commission’s conclusion that the existing laws did not sufficiently protect children, and that there was no legal duty for adults to intervene to protect a child in their home. But the right to silence afforded to family members who may have witnessed child abuse should also be removed, he said. “The police acknowledge that the closing of ranks by the families and the ‘right to silence’ and refusal to be interviewed has stonewalled a number of investigations into child abuse deaths.”