The fabulously-named Kier Starmer (the UK’s former Director of Public Prosecutions) is all over the news today, calling for a mandatory reporting law around child abuse, with those who fail to report facing prison sentences (as is already the case in America, Canada and Australia, for instance). Well helloooooo – we in AML have been doing that for years. In fact, I would be surprised if Mr Starmer hadn’t based his suggestion on the AML requirement (appearing in the UK as the three offences of “failure to disclose”, sections 330, 331 and 332 of the Proceeds of Crime Act).
To quote from Mr Starmer on the Beeb: “It’s a very simple proposition. If you’re in a position of authority or responsibility in relation to children, and you have cause to believe that a child has been abused, or is about to be abused, you really ought to do something about it. There are just too many examples of cases where those who have suspected abuse have not really done anything about it and the perpetrator has either got away with it or, worse still, been able to perpetuate the offending.” And who would be covered by the reporting requirement? Again, from Mr Starmer: “I would have a reasonably broad category of individuals that were subject to the law. Obviously school teachers, but others in a position of authority or responsibility in relation to children, including other educational institutions, even sporting institutions.” What might be suitable here is a tiered approach, as we have in AML with stiffer penalties for those in positions of specific AML responsibility (what PoCA terms “nominated officers”).
Of course, Mr Starmer is the ex-DPP, not the current incumbent. And according to the Beeb, a spokesman for the Department for Education said in response to his suggestion: “Mandatory reporting is not the answer. Professionals should refer immediately to social care when they are concerned about a child. Other countries have tried mandatory reporting and there is no evidence to show that it is a better system for protecting children.” But – as anyone working in AML can confirm – it sure does concentrate the mind.