In its final report in October 2022, the first of the three key recommendation made by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was the introduction of a statutory requirement of mandatory reporting. 

The recommendation was for individuals in certain employments (paid or voluntary) and professions to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the relevant authorities. Failure to do so, in some circumstances, IICSA recommended could lead to the commission of a new criminal offence of failure to report an allegation of child sexual abuse when required to do so. In reaching that conclusion IICSA had held seminars in 2018 and 2019 to consider the then obligations and to debate the pros and cons of change. 

After IICSA made its recommendation the Government said (in April 2023) that people who worked with children would be legally required to report child sexual abuse or face sanctions. The first step to introducing the duty was a call for evidence open to professionals, volunteers, parents, victims and survivors, and the wider public. That was launched in May 2023 closing in August 2023, and was then followed by a consultation in November 2023. 

On 9 May 2024, over five years since the first seminar on the subject held by IICSA, amendments were proposed to the Criminal Justice Bill to introduce a duty to report child sex offences. The duty proposed is:

A person aged 18 or over must make a notification under this section if, while engaging in a relevant activity in England, the person is given reason to suspect that a child sex offence may have been committed (at any time)”

What constitutes a relevant activity is already defined in statute in Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Further relevant activities are to be referenced in an additional schedule. They as currently proposed are linked in the main to education, care and policing.

The proposed wording includes some exceptions such as where it is not in the best interests of the child to report or where there was consensual activity between two children between ages 13-18. 

There has been criticism that the proposals are not comprehensive enough and also create challenges for the application of the exceptions. We will consider those issues in more detail in subsequent blogs.