Former Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer QC, will use the BBC programme Panorama last Monday (November 4) to call for an overhaul of the law to prevent paedophiles slipping through the legal net. In particular, he is advocating the prosecution of teachers and care workers who fail to alert the police to allegation of child abuse.
Mr Starmer will say that the time has come to change the law and close a gap that has been there for a very long time. The change in the law would bring the UK into line with other countries such as the US and Australia, where it is a criminal offence for care workers of all sorts not to report child abuse allegations.
Declassified files uncovered by the programme will show how schools and hospitals have repeatedly failed to protect children from sex offenders. However, the Government has said that mandatory reporting is not the answer.
The most senior official to call for the introduction of compulsory reporting, Mr Starmer’s interview comes a year after it was revealed that Jimmy Savile had been a serial abuser of children at schools, hospitals and at BBC premises for over fifty years. Despite numerous allegations and complaints to police and care workers, the DJ was never apprehended.
According to the former DPP, who was succeeded last Friday by Alison Saunders, a criminal penalty would “focus people’s minds” and could be anything from a fine to a short jail sentence.
However, not everyone agrees with the call for mandatory reporting; Dame Claire Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children said that the reporting of child abuse in the UK was on the rise and that a huge issue is that teachers and other individuals in the care system are not sufficiently trained to spot the early signs of abuse.