Abuse of children killing 100 every year

One hundred children die every year because of maltreatment in Britain, twice as many as previously thought, the charity Unicef has said.

Earlier studies, based on the outcome of court cases involving child abuse, have suggested Britain has one of the lowest rates of maltreatment among the 27 member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Under the old calculations, Britain had the sixth lowest rate of maltreatment deaths, at 0.4 fatalities per 100,000 children under 15. But Unicef was concerned that differences in recording figures meant that many abuse-related deaths were being overlooked.

In a new report, researchers included all child deaths for which no other cause could be established, on the basis these were most likely to be cases of maltreatment that could not be proved in court. Under the new method, the UK has 0.9 abuse deaths per 100,000 children, putting it in the middle of the league table.

Thirteen out of the 27 countries have a lower figure, including Germany, France, Ireland, Sweden, Korea and Australia. Children in Britain are nine times more likely to die through abuse than those in Spain.

America, Mexico and Portugal have the highest child abuse death rates. In the US, 2.4 children per 100,000 die from maltreatment every year.

Worryingly, the report found Britain was among the worst countries for underestimating the number of child abuse deaths. About half of the new UK rate was made up of deaths that would not have been included under the old method.

Only the Slovak Republic, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico and Portugal had bigger differences between their new and previous rates.

The researchers found a strong link between the rates of child maltreatment deaths and adult fatality figures.

But rates of child abuse deaths are falling, the report found.Unicef used the report to call on all countries to ban the smacking of children.