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Child Neglect

Volume 412: debated on Friday 11 April 2003

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To ask the Solicitor-General (1) how many parents or carers of children killed or non-accidentally injured while in their care were prosecuted for neglect under section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 for their role in the death or injury in (a) 2001 and (b) 2002; [97114](2)how many prosecutions were

(a) not commenced and (b) discontinued pre-trial of parents or carers of children killed or non-accidentally injured while in their care, in (i) 2001 and (ii) 2002 because it was not clear which of the parties was guilty of the assault or killing; [97115]

(3)in how many cases in (a) 2001 and (b) 2002 in which one parent or carer was convicted of neglect for their role in the non-accidental injury or death of children in their care, the other parent was convicted of murder, manslaughter or an assault offence; [97113]

(4)how many parents or carers were (a) prosecuted and (b) convicted in connection with the (i) killing and (ii) non-accidental injury of children in their care in (A) 2001 and (B) 2002. [971171

The information requested is not collated centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

To ask the Solicitor-General what advice the CPS gives to police about charging parents or carers in whose care children have been killed or non-accidentally injured if it is unclear which of them was responsible for the injury or death. [97111]

Cases involving death or serious injury to young children, where it is not possible to say which of two parents or carers was responsible for the injury, present particular difficulties for the prosecution. In these cases the Crown Prosecution Service recognises the importance of early involvement with the police and in most cases would seek to advise the police pre-charge.In advising the police, the Crown Prosecution Service will apply the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Before advice is given to proceed with a particular charge, the prosecutor must be satisfied that the evidence provides a realistic prospect of conviction and that it is in the public interest to proceed.Where two carers have been suspects the available evidence often does not go far enough to establish that they acted in concert, 'joint enterprise' or that one rather than the other inflicted the injury. If this cannot be established and there is nothing further to show that a parent foresaw a risk of injury to the child that might result in death and failed to take steps to protect the child, then neither parent or carer can be convicted of murder or manslaughter, although in some circumstances a conviction for cruelty or neglect to a child (section 1 of the Children's and Young Persons Act 1933) might follow.

To ask the Solicitor General how many convicted parents or carers of children killed or non-accidentally injured while in their care were the subject of unduly lenient sentence appeals in (a) 2001 and (b) 2002. [97112]

No convicted parents or carers of children killed while in their care were the subject of unduly lenient sentence applications in 2001 or 2002.In 2001 no cases involving assaults by parents or carers of children in their care were the subject of unduly lenient sentence applications.In 2002 the Court of Appeal considered the sentence imposed in one case where the offender, who was the victims' father, faced offences including cruelty to his two children. The Court of Appeal decided to make the sentences imposed in respect of the cruelty offences, run consecutive to the sentences he faced for other offences and increased the total sentence from eight years to 13 years.

To ask the Solicitor-General what the CPS policy is on prosecuting a carer or parent where a child is killed or non-accidentally injured while in the care of a small group of carers of parents. [97116]

In addition to the Code for Crown Prosecutors, crown prosecutors have national policy guidance for the prosecution of cases involving allegations of child abuse. This policy guidance covers cases involving the death of a child and requires such cases to be treated as a priority, with expedition and with sensitivity. Crown prosecutors with specialist training will generally be responsible for these cases.The results of a consultation exercise with all Chief Crown Prosecutors, to identify good practice in the prosecution of serious child abuse cases, has stressed the importance of:

  • early involvement with the police pre-charge;
  • the use of suitably qualified forensic experts;
  • the early involvement of prosecuting counsel; and
  • the benefits of inter-agency protocols for the investigation of these cases.

These findings will be passed back to prosecutors nationwide.