The abuse of children must be one of the worst crimes that humanity can devise. Abusers ought to be punished and those who are paid to protect children should be vigilant and careful in their jobs. Teachers, local authority employees, social workers, police and other organisations are paid to protect children. I must say that I am troubled by a proposal to extend the crime of wilful neglect to cover those categories of people who could, if they fail to carry out their duties properly, face up to five years in prison and unlimited fines.
I do not think that creating a new crime will mean greater protection of children. It may, ironically, mean less protection of children because there will be a discouragement for people to serve as child protectors. It also is likely to mean a greater number of innocent people accused of child abuse because in exercising their judgment in these matters child protectors may err so far over the line of caution that we will see witch hunts and many families disrupted.
We should remember that in 1987 more than 120 children were removed from their families in Middlesbrough and Cleveland when two paediatricians wrongly diagnosed the children as suffering from abuse. Eventually 94 children were returned to their homes.
I am sure that creating new crimes with new laws will create more problems than it solves. It seems to me to be clear that resources, training and money spent on child protection is money well spent and it is clear that not enough money is spent on this.