The government plans to update child cruelty law to severely punish those who inflict cruelty which is likely to cause psychological suffering or injury to a child, Justice Minister Damian Green has said.
Offenders will face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison whether the harm is physical or psychological in nature.
The existing child cruelty law already allows cases to be brought for neglect, ill-treatment, abandonment and other forms of cruelty to children but the current law does not make it clear that this also includes cruelty likely to cause emotional harm.
“It is vital that we do all we can to protect all children from harm and enable them to grow up in a safe environment,” Mr Green said. “This is why we are clarifying the criminal law on child cruelty to make it absolutely clear that children who are subjected to cruelty likely to cause psychological suffering or injury are protected by the law.”
Action for Children’s Chief Executive Sir Tony Hawkhead said: “Children who are made to feel worthless, powerless and unloved by their families will now have the law on their side.
“We are one of the last countries in the western world to recognise this form of child cruelty – the time for change is long overdue. Emotional abuse can create permanent scars, leading to mental health problems and, in extreme cases, to suicide. This legislation will change lives.”