Children and their families find the way the law operates hostile and threatening rather than supportive, according to a major report to be published on 23 October.
The National Commission of Inquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse will call for radical changes in the law and the way the profession practises and implements it. Its recommendations include:
reviewing the Children Act 1989 as implemented, which still places too much emphasis on emergency protection at the expense of families' interests;
training for judges and lawyers in dealing with child witnesses in criminal cases;
making legal procedures more user-friendly for both children and their families; and
legislation to define responsibilities of parents, rather than at present simply stating what parents must not do.
Commission secretary Chris Cloke said: “If children's families are unwilling to use the law, large numbers of abusers will remain unpunished.”
The report, Childhood Matters, is the result of a two-year evidence gathering exercise covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.