People who abuse children and try to escape unpunished by staying silent or blaming someone else will face up to 10 years in prison from next week, Kenneth Clarke has said.
The loophole will be closed by extending the offence of causing or allowing the death of a child, which was used to prosecute Baby P’s killers, to cover causing or allowing serious physical harm, such as brain damage or broken bones, the Justice Secretary said.
It follows a number of cases where prosecutions could not be brought because it was impossible to identify the individual responsible for the abuse.
This included the cases of a five-month-old baby who suffered a brain haemorrhage and fractured skull and a two-week-old with a broken collar bone, ribs and leg, the Ministry of Justice said. No-one was charged in either case, but the injuries were not thought to be accidental.
Mr Clarke said: “By making sure this Bill became law we have taken the opportunity to close a terrible loophole which has, until now, allowed people accused of seriously harming a child or vulnerable adult to escape unpunished.
“We want to do everything possible to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our society are kept safe in their homes, and those that abuse their power do not evade justice.”
The new offence, the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims (Amendment) Act 2012, will also apply where the victim is a vulnerable adult.