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Legal reporting requirement on child sex abuse needed, says Braverman

The Government is expected to set out details of plans in the coming days to tackle grooming gangs and better protect children.

Dominic McGrath
Sunday 02 April 2023 00:01 BST
Home Secretary Suella Braverman will tour broadcast studios on Sunday (Victoria Jones/PA)
Home Secretary Suella Braverman will tour broadcast studios on Sunday (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

The Home Secretary is set to spell out details of a new plan that would see people working with children in England put under a new legal duty to report “signs or suspicions” of sexual abuse.

The Government is expected to set out details of plans in the coming days to tackle grooming gangs and better protect children.

It comes after the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse last year described sexual abuse of children as an “epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake”.

The seven-year inquiry into institutional failings in England and Wales concluded that people in positions of trust should be compelled by law to report child sexual abuse.

Had this duty been in place already, countless children would have been better protected against grooming gangs and against sexual abusers more widely

Home Secretary Suella Braverman

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to set out further measures to tackle grooming gangs on Monday, but ahead of the announcement Suella Braverman indicated that there was an urgent need for legal reform.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Ms Braverman said that the inquiry “recommended that the Government should introduce a mandatory duty for professionals with safeguarding responsibilities to report any signs or suspicions of such abuse”.

“Had this duty been in place already, countless children would have been better protected against grooming gangs and against sexual abusers more widely.

“That is why I have committed to introduce mandatory reporting across the whole of England.”

Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement to report knowledge or suspicions of a crime.

Writing in the paper, Ms Braverman said: “Our safeguarding professionals, such as teachers and social workers, are valued public servants who play a vital role in protecting and nurturing future generations.

“I know the overwhelming majority of them, along with the public, consider it a duty on themselves and their colleagues to report any indication of the sexual abuse of a child.”

But she says the duty must be strengthened in legislation to “ensure those who fail to do so face the full force of the law”.

“Some crimes, if left unpunished, create such a burning sense of injustice among the public that they singe the fabric of our social contract.

“When the most vulnerable people cannot rely on protection from those entrusted to safeguard them, cannot rely on the police to defend them, and cannot rely on the courts to deliver them justice, then the legitimacy of our democratic institutions is called into question.

“Grooming gangs and child sexual abuse are examples of that phenomenon.”

Ms Braverman will tour broadcast studios later on Sunday, where she is likely to disclose more details of the Government’s plans.

But the Home Secretary is also expected to be grilled on plans, announced earlier this week, to house asylum seekers in disused military bases.

The move sparked controversy and criticism from campaigners, with some Tory MPs also vocal in their opposition.

Ms Braverman could also face questions over whether ferries and barges will also be used to house asylum seekers, as well as about a Sun on Sunday report that ministers are close to signing a contract with Portland Port Authority over “floating accommodation for asylum seekers”.

Suggestions of such a plan have already triggered opposition, with Tory-led Dorset Council citing “serious concerns”.

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