Parents who feed their children’s bodies but starve them for emotional nourishment will be prosecutable with Britain’s new “Cinderella Law”. The changes to the existing child protection laws on the books will make “emotional cruelty” a crime along with physical or sexual abuse.
The change will be introduced by the government during the Queen’s Speech in early June. The timing of the release coincides with other planned events to enforce the protection of children’s emotional, as well as physical, well-being. Breaking the new aspect of the law could result in the parents being sentenced to as much as a decade in prison. The changes update existing laws in Wales and England which currently cover only assault, abandonment or exposure of a child to suffering or injury.
Under the new law, which makes it a crime to commit an act that deliberately harms a child’s physical, emotional or social development, ignoring a child or acts damaging a child’s emotional development would be punishable. Other offenses would include forcing a child to witness domestic violence or making a child a scape goat in domestic situations.
Social service workers say that as many as 1.5 million British children suffer from neglect. The changes will give the police the authority to intervene earlier and start building a case before physical or sexual harm is done to a child. Robert Buckland, a part-time judge and campaigner on the issue, said, “…the time for change is long overdue.”
A spokesman for Action for Children said the change was a big step towards protecting the country’s children. England has been one of few counties to recognize all types of child abuse as criminal. Following years of lobbying, the government has appeared to listen.
An official, with the Justice Ministry, said the government feels protecting children is basic and that child abuse is an offense which should be prosecuted.
“Every child should be able to grow up in a safe environment. We are considering ways the law can support this,” he said.