Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, originally drafted in the 1860s, sets out the offence often referred to as ‘child cruelty'. Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, in her Foreword to The Criminal Law and Child Neglect: an independent analysis and proposal for reform (2013, Action for Children) argues that s1 is now ‘unfit for purpose'. The Advisory Group of independent experts, chaired by Laura Hoyano, who produced this report drafted a new offence of child maltreatment, designed to address the exclusion of emotional and developmental neglect and to remove the confusing terminology of the current offence. An attempt to introduce the clause in the Crime and Courts Bill was aborted in February 2013 to allow time for the government to consider any evidence to counter its belief that the courts and CPS are interpreting the offence ‘in the light of contemporary circumstances' (Education Committee, 2012-13, HC 993) and that is sufficient.
This article examines the arguments for reform in the context of research which highlights the extent and significance of neglect. It notes the very different terminology developed in relation to safeguarding children and concludes that reform of s1 is long overdue.
The full version of this article appears in the June 2013 issue of Family Law.