What is Mandatory Reporting?
In its most basic form it is an obligation on the part of those who are in contact with children to report any abuse which they either suspect or witness to someone in a position of power. It is the law in most European Countries, some parts of the USA, Australia, and Canada.
There are campaign groups who have examined the different versions of the law in different parts of the world in order to arrive at a workable solution, which in the past has been proposed to government. Despite consulting on the subject, a mandatory reporting law was rejected.
What version of the law is proposed?
The campaign groups would introduce a new law forcing those working with children in schools, faith groups, sports bodies, the NHS, and nurseries, to inform their local authority of all allegations and incidents of suspected and known abuse.
What law presently exists?
Presently, no such legal obligation exists, and there is no sanction on any regulated activity, as these institutions are termed, for failing to inform the local authority.
Professional Guidance exists but as there is no obligation to report, staff who suspect or witness abuse are left in a difficult position.
Jimmy Savile Report
The publication of the report of the Dame Janet Smith Jimmy Savile Report into the abuse committed by him at the BBC, highlighted the way in which Savile hid in plain sight over many years, and that many different individuals effectively orchestrated a cover up by turning a blind eye to his nefarious activities. It was not only the BBC, of course, where Savile’s behaviour was investigated but also at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, and Leeds Hospital where he worked as a porter.
What factors stopped staff at establishments from reporting?
Savile was so famous and respected that there was a fear by those that discovered the abuse. If they were conscientious they may report what they had seen. It was more likely that they would say nothing because if they were not believed, the backlash could affect their employment. There was no whistle-blowing law to protect them at the time.
There were examples of exactly the same lack of reporting at Stoke Mandeville Hospital whereby a junior member of staff was dismissed when she complained.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse
The Inquiry conducted a module which looked at Mandatory Reporting in detail, and consulted several different organisations. It looked at all the evidence and came to a different conclusion from government. In its final report published in October 2022, a recommendation was made as follows:-
Recommendation 13: Mandatory reporting
The UK government and Welsh Government should introduce laws requiring certain people to report child sexual abuse. These people are called ‘mandated reporters’. These laws would apply where a child or an abuser tells a mandated reporter that a child is being sexually abused, as well as if a mandated reporter witnesses a child being sexually abused or can see signs that indicate that a child has been sexually abused. The Inquiry’s final Report sets out further detail about this recommendation including that it should be a crime to fail to make a mandatory report in certain circumstances. People who work in regulated activity in relation to children (under the Safeguarding and Vulnerable Groups Act 2006, as amended) and people in positions of trust and also police officers should be mandated reporters. Mandated reporters should make these reports as soon as possible to local authority children’s social care or the police.
Legislation would deliver long-needed change to safeguarding by giving all staff a clear legal obligation to inform the local authority of all incidents where abuse is alleged or suspected. It remains to be seen what reaction we get from government to the recommendation.
Peter Garsden, consultant solicitor with Scott-Moncrieff and former head of Abuse departments, believes that the solution to ensuring that child sexual abuse doesn’t go unreported is to make the non-reporting of abuse a criminal offence. This mandatory reporting is already law in not only all large Commonwealth countries, but also several other countries round the world. In his capacity as President of ACAL (Association of Child Abuse Lawyers), Mr Garsden is campaigning for a change in the mandatory reporting law through support groups and Parliament.
Peter, who has specialised in abuse cases since 1994, said: “Together with a number of charities, including NAPAC, Innocence in Danger and the Survivor’s Trust (representing over 100 survivor charities) we are pushing for a change in the law. In my experience of manifest abuse that took place in many institutions such as childrens homes from the 1960’s to the 1980’s, had it always been a criminal offence not to report, then it is much more likely that the abuse which took place would have been reported. The police would also have been able to report wardens in charge of Children’s Homes, whom they knew had turned a blind eye to abuse in their children’s home. The Catholic Church, which has repeatedly moved abusive priests from one parish to another, could also have been brought to book. It is also much more likely that Jimmy Savile would have been prosecuted in his lifetime rather than waiting until he died for a retrospective investigation. I implore people to sign our petition. This law is vital to protect our children from harm.”
Those wishing to sign the petition can do so by visiting change.org website here.