Monday, April 30, 2012

Families face jail for failing to report sex abuse

FAMILY MEMBERS could face prosecution if they fail to report evidence of sexual abuse or other serious offences against children to the Garda under proposed new laws.

In addition, any sports club, faith-based organisation or voluntary group with access to children could be shut down if they fail to implement guidelines for the reporting of suspected child abuse or neglect.

The measures are contained in two pieces of proposed legislation published by the Government aimed at significantly strengthening our child protection laws. 

They were widely welcomed by children’s groups last night who described them as a turning point in the history of child protection and ushering in a new era of responsibility for protecting young people at risk of harm.

Under a Bill published by Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, any person found guilty of withholding information relating to sexual or serious offences against children could face a minimum jail term of five years.

The draft legislation includes a defence for those who fail to disclose information at the express request of the victim. 

In addition, parents or health professionals will be able to use a defence of not reporting information on the basis that it would harm the wellbeing of the child.

In a separate Bill published by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, guidelines for handling suspected abuse or neglect concerns are to be placed on a legal footing. 

Failure to adhere to the guidelines could result in teachers, doctors or social workers being fined or jailed. 

Similar penalties apply to “designated officers” attached to organisations with access to children.


Lady Portia said...

In Eire HSE social workers used to threaten families who reported abuse with Electric Shock therapy to burn out memories of abuse and place the children back with abusers.I heard it with my own ears.
Now solicitors will not be able to advise protective parents to keep quiet on child sexual abuse during divorce etc- when it is common for disclosure.
Well done Alan for this.

Anonymous said...

Both the victim's request and the victim's wellbeing defences are ripe to be exploited by the liars of the church and others complicit in child sexual abuse. Both stink of the excuses currently used to avoid responsibility for deliberate child endangerment. They will need to be drafted extremely carefully.

And surely since part of the reason for mandatory disclosure must be to protect other children from being attacked by these serial predators, such defences will throw any future victims to the wolves. The police should at least be informed about the dangerous sexual offender so they can investigate if they represent a danger to children, even if the known victim is not able to face making a statement.

I've seen too many examples of the church exploiting its political influence to rig laws and guidelines to its own advantage, under the guise of "helping victims", to think this is going to be anything other than lip service to child protection, unless a determined and effective effort is made to prevent misuse by the very people they are supposed to force to finally do the right thing.