MP seeks to widen legal definition of neglect

By Tristan Donovan, Wednesday 19 June 2013

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An MP will today launch a bid to make the emotional and psychological neglect of children a crime.

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The current legal definition of neglect only covers physical harm. Image: MorgueFile

A private member's bill being tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Mark Williams seeks to extend the legal definition of child neglect to include emotional neglect – such as ongoing humiliation.

The present definition only covers physical harm.

“Experts suggest psychological neglect is the most destructive form of abuse, yet the police are powerless to intervene,” said Williams, who is the MP for Ceredigion.

The bill has been drafted by the charity Action for Children and is due to be discussed in parliament on 12 July.

Matthew Downie, head of campaigns and public affairs at the charity, said: “Action for Children has long been leading the campaign to update the law on child neglect.

“The criminal law on child neglect is only appropriate for use in the most severe cases of child neglect, where all efforts have been made to help parents and carers make changes and to keep families together.

“Sadly however, we know that in a small number of cases there are parents who intend to harm their children – and the current law fails to protect children from the full range of that harm.”

The move follows the charity's Keeping Children Safe report that said the existing laws surrounding neglect were out of date.

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