An invitation to share your views on sentencing for child cruelty offences

An invitation to share your views on sentencing for child cruelty offences: should blaming others increase the penalty and are those who do not prevent cruelty equally culpable?

This will be of particular interest to those working in the fields of child protection, domestic violence and/or children’s and women’s rights.

The Sentencing Council has published a consultation to seek views on their draft new sentencing guidelines in relation to child cruelty. The final version of the guidelines, which will be published after the consultation process, will be followed by all courts when deciding the appropriate sentence for someone who has been found guilty of child cruelty.

The consultation seeks views on the factors that make the offences more or less serious or which should otherwise influence the type and lengths of the sentence passed. This includes a call for views as to whether an attempt to blame child cruelty on another person should be included as an aggravating factor, which will increase the sentence imposed on an offender by the courts. The consultation document explains that the intention here is “to capture those cases where an offender has deliberately put the blame onto someone else, often their partner, which analysis of transcripts suggests is a fairly common scenario.”

Other questions posed in the consultation in relation to child cruelty include:

  • Do you agree that an offender who fails to protect a child from cruelty (absent any other relevant considerations) is classed as having the same level of culpability as an offender who actually inflicts the cruelty?
  • Do you agree that attempts to rectify another’s behaviour should be included as a mitigating factor?
  • Do you agree that ‘threats to prevent reporting of the offence’ (threats to the victim or others) should be included as an aggravating factor?

The consultation also calls for views on the Sentencing Council’s decision to extend the scope of the existing child cruelty sentencing guidelines to include two further offences: causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm; and failing to protect a child from the risk of female genital mutilation.

This consultation apparently comprises another step towards formalising the adage that safeguarding truly is everyone’s responsibility and to holding individuals to account for their failures to protect children from the cruelty of others.

The consultation was opened on 13 June 2017 and will close on 13 September 2017. Views are sought from everyone, including members of the public, judiciary, legal practitioners and any individuals who work in or have an interest in criminal justice.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of June 15, 2017.