Emotional cruelty will now be considered a crime for the first time, with adults guilty of emotionally abusing children in their care facing the same jail threat as those guilty of physical neglect.
Currently The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provides for the punishment of a person who treats a child “in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health (including injury to or loss of sight, or hearing, or limb, or organ of the body, and any mental derangement)“. The new Cinderella bill would add a further category of harm for which the perpetrator could be punished; ‘’impairment of “physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development”.
The Ministry of Justice confirmed that they were considering ways that the law can support protecting children from this sort of harm.
It has been suggested that parents found guilty of neglecting their children through starving them of love and affection will face up to 10 years in jail under the new law. Robert Buckland, MP has commented “Our criminal law has never reflected the full range of emotional suffering experienced by children who are abused by their parents or carers”. The new offence would make it a crime to deliberately harm a child’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development through, for example, ignoring a child or not showing them any love over prolonged periods, resulting in damage to a child’s emotional development.
It is reported that ministers are looking to introduce the measure ahead of the next election, possibly in the Queen’s Speech although this has not been confirmed as yet. There have also been reports that such a change may not require a separate piece of legislation and instead it could be added on to an existing bill.