The law on child neglect


Child neglect laws are a complex combination of several statutes as well as many past court cases which make up a legal framework. They were designed to protect children from harm and neglect by creating severe consequences to those who inflict such damage.

Under child neglect laws a parent (or legal guardian) is judged to have neglected the child if the parent has acted in a manner that was likely to cause harm or injury (physical or mental) to the child. The parent’s awareness of the likelihood of the injury caused is not relevant. For example, if a six-year-old child is left alone in a house for two days, it is likely that the parent will be criminally liable for neglect even if the parent argues that in their opinion the child was safe. The law does not accept a parent’s lack of interest in their child as a defence either, so a parent who allows a 13-year-old to spend long periods of time unsupervised with a different adult could also be found guilty. The main statute which is relevant to child neglect laws is the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, although since then there have been many new pieces of legislation, such as the Children Act 1989 and 2004, and the Protection of Children Act 1999.

If you are concerned that a child you know is being neglected, or an adult you know might be harming or not providing for a child in their care, you should inform the police or appropriate agency as soon as possible. If the matter is not an emergency but you would like to know exactly how child neglect laws affect your situation, seeking advice from a solicitor can help. 

If you would like to obtain legal advice on child neglect laws, Caven can put you in touch with a local family / child solicitor free of charge. So, if you have any questions or would like our help in finding local family / child solicitors please call us on 08001 221 2299 or complete the web-form above.

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