Should we have a law to punish those who fail to report the abuse of children? The former director of public prosecutions thinks so.
‘If the proposed new law had been in place at the time Mid Staffordshire hospital was failing, would all the ward staff either be guilty of abuse or of failure to report abuse?’
If health workers, teachers and nursery staff were to be prosecuted for failing to report abuse of children then presumably nurses, home helps and care staff would be prosecuted for not reporting abuses of older people.
Yet there is already detailed guidance to professionals on the need to immediately report any concerns to social services. So what additional safeguards would be provided by the threat of a witch hunt after the event?
The current concerns are a reaction to the scandal of the establishment cover-up around the Jimmy Savile case and the admissions of the Catholic church hierarchy.
The government has said organisations should support and protect whistleblowers because this is how cover-ups are exposed.
If the proposed new law had been in place at the time Mid Staffordshire hospital was failing, would all the ward staff either be guilty of abuse or of failure to report abuse? How would you prove your innocence?
Who would believe someone who claimed not to have seen anything, not to have been told anything and not to have heard anything? The only way to shrug off suspicion would be to accuse someone else.
Rather than draft a new law we should be asking why the existing laws have not been used to prosecute those in the BBC, the Catholic church and the police who failed to treat allegations of sexual abuse seriously, who did no investigate rigorously or who covered up abuse.
Surely to cover up an illegal act to protect an individual or organisation is already a crime.