Law demanded to make workers report suspicions of child abuse

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CAMPAIGNERS are demanding a new law to force people who work with children to report suspected child abuse.

Almost 50,000 signatures will be handed to 10 Downing Street ahead of the publication today of the serious case review into the murder of four-year-old Daniel Pelka by his mother and stepfather.

Paula Barrow, a mother-of-two from Manchester, who launched the petition after hearing about the Pelka case, said she wanted a new law removing “uncertainty” over how professionals should act.

Mrs Barrow said that after talking to specialist lawyers she wanted to see a system akin to that for corporate manslaughter and her efforts are being supported by charities who say it would protect children.

“I was shocked and deeply affected when I heard about Daniel Pelka.

“I was aware there was a law regarding reporting abuse in France and assumed there must be a law in this country that required people working with children to report appropriately.

“I was shocked to find it was not the case.”

The trial of Magdelena Luczak, 27, and Mariusz Krezolek, 34, heard that despite seeing a doctor in hospital for a broken arm, arriving at school with bruises and facial injuries, and teachers repeatedly witnessing Daniel fishing in bins and stealing from children’s lunchboxes for scraps of food, there was no intervention by any of the agencies responsible for child protection.

They were jailed for life with a minimum term of 30 years each last month for what the judge at Birmingham Crown Court called the “incomprehensible” murder in Coventry, Warwickshire.

Fay Maxted, of The Survivors Trust, said: “Spotting the signs of child abuse can be challenging, and all too often reports that should be made are not because of misplaced loyalty to the institution or friendship with the alleged perpetrator, as Serious Case Reviews have shown in the past.

“If law is introduced, staff will have no doubt what to do, and they would have legal protection from recrimination which presently can follow when a member of staff takes the conscientious step of reporting.”

Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers, added: “Child protection framework is outdated and leaves children at risk.

“The introduction of mandatory reporting would far better protect children and staff when concerns arise.

“It is only when concerns are reported that a child stands any chance of abuses being addressed.”

Calls for new legislation come as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children launched a campaign that it hopes will lead to a “massive reduction” in child abuse.

The scheme, called “Now I know”, is centred on preventative action and seeking to help children before “terrible and lasting” damage is done.

The initiative aims for ChildLine representatives to visit every primary school once every two years to talk to children about abuse, how to protect themselves and where to get help.

The charity’s new chief executive, Peter Wanless, said people “do not want to tolerate child abuse”.

He said: “We no longer need to convince them of the suffering it leads to, or the costs to future lives – Jimmy Savile’s crimes are one shocking illustration of the consequences when people do not speak up and are not heard, for whatever reason.

“But we must now inspire everyone to believe that such horrors can be prevented and that they can help.”