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Children: Abuse

Volume 689: debated on Monday 19 February 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider introducing further legislation to prevent the abuse of children accused of being possessed by the devil by pastors in certain religious groups. [HL1736]

There are already explicit laws in place to protect children from maltreatment and these laws can be used against anyone who aids or abets abuse. Under Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, it is an offence for any adult with responsibility for a child to wilfully assault, ill-treat, neglect or abandon the child in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health, or to counsel or procure such suffering or injury. The maximum penalty on conviction of either offence is 10 years. It is also an offence for anyone to aid or abet someone who causes a child suffering or injury. A belief in “spirit possession” is relatively widespread, although abuse linked to such beliefs is rare. The Government published guidance for consultation on 2 February which aims to help local agencies to apply their general child protection procedures to such cases so as to most effectively safeguard and promote the welfare of the children involved.