The former director of public prosecution has said that he wants to see professionals who fail to report child abuse suspicions prosecuted.
Keir Starmer, who recently left the post to be replaced by Alison Saunders, said that a “mandatory reporting” law could result in those not reporting suspicions being sent to jail, though the government insists this is not the answer.
A BBC Panorama programme looked in detail at how some schools had failed to protect children in their care but, despite guidance encouraging professionals to report child abuse, failure to do so is not a crime.
Starmer said that it was time to plug a gap in the law which had been there for a long time, adding that making it mandatory would concentrate minds. He said there are too many examples of people having the opportunity to report child abuse but not doing so. Many other countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, do have mandatory reporting laws but the government says there are no plans for such legislation in this country.
The Department for Education said that the number of referrals had increased in recent years and there was no evidence to show that mandatory reporting would be a better system for protecting children.
Charities seem divided on the issue. Dame Clare Tickell, the chief executive of Action for Children, said she was not convinced on mandatory reporting but Jonathan West, of the Mandate Now coalition of charities welcomed the comments of Keir Starmer, arguing that social services could not act on cases they have not been told about.