PM hints at change to child abuse law

Baroness Butler-Sloss
Baroness Butler-Sloss
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DAVID Cameron has indicated he is ready to change the law to make it an offence not to report child abuse amid calls from campaigners for a crackdown on people who cover up the crime.

The Prime Minister said the reviews into historic paedophilia allegations would look into the possibility of introducing new offences and told MPs he believed it “may well be time to take that sort of step forward”.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless, who is leading a review into the Home Office’s handling of abuse claims, earlier announced that the charity wanted tougher laws to make it a criminal offence to cover up child sex abuse.

Mr Wanless also called for authorities to consider stronger corporate duties on adults to protect children living away from home, in institutions like care homes or boarding schools, where they may be particularly at risk.

Mr Cameron said: “Should we change the law so there is a requirement to report and make it a criminal offence not to report?

“The Government is currently looking at that and of course both reviews will be able to examine this particular point and advise us accordingly.

“I think it may well be time to take that sort of step forward.”

The NSPCC’s decision to call for a change in the law represents a significant shift in policy from the charity, which has previously opposed mandatory reporting of child abuse concerns. But some children’s rights campaigners said the change did not go far enough, because the NSPCC continued to oppose a blanket requirement to report concerns.

Separately, Downing Street insisted yesterday that David Cameron remains confident Baroness Butler-Sloss is the right person to lead the Government’s inquiry into allegations that establishment figures conspired to cover up child abuse.

The former High Court judge has been facing calls to step down because she is too closely tied to the establishment after reports her brother Sir Michael Havers tried to prevent ex-MP Geoffrey Dickens airing claims about a diplomat in Parliament in the 1980s.

The Home Office said Lady Butler-Sloss’s integrity was “beyond reproach” and it stood “unreservedly” by her appointment.

Asked whether Mr Cameron was confident she should head the inquiry, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman told a Westminster media briefing yesterday: “Yes. She commands the very highest respect for her professional expertise and integrity. His view is that she does command widespread respect and confidence, and rightly so.”