Further to our earlier blog we now consider the five core elements of the proposed duty to report and whom that report has to be made to. The duty to report applies to 

  • Individuals age 18 or over
  • Whilst engaged in a relevant activity 
  • Who have reason to suspect
  • That a child sex offence may have been committed
  • At any time

The responsibility applying to those age 18 or over is not surprising or controversial. 

Relevant activities are regulated activities as defined in existing statute (the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006) or in the proposed new schedule. Existing regulated activities include certain roles such as teaching and care and specified establishments including schools, nurseries, children’s homes and detention centres. The new schedule includes a range of roles linked to local authority care, court appointed individuals and the police. IICSA’s recommendations included all of the aforementioned categories but also included any person working in a position of trust. That would have extended to, for example, faith leaders and sports coaches. As currently drafted, this duty will not cover such roles unless they arise in an education or other relevant activity setting. This omission has been the subject of much criticism.

Reason to suspect is given no definition. IICSA recommended reporting where an individual received a disclosure of child sexual abuse from a child or a perpetrator, witnessed a child being sexually abused or observed recognised indicators of child sexual abuse. The use of the term reason to suspect may be wider than IICSA had recommended but equally be harder to define for organisations seeking to train their staff about what is a reasonable suspicion. Some instances will be clear cut others may be less so.

A child sex offence is defined in the proposed new schedule to the bill and references various statutes including a wide range of offences from rape, sexual exploitation, familial child sex offences, trafficking, exposure and voyeurism to taking and possession of indecent photographs of a child. The duty arises when an individual reasonably believes an offence may have been committed. There will not be a requirement to know that it actually has occurred. 

The final element of the duty is that it relates to abuse which occurred at any time. Therefore it would include the reporting of non-recent abuse by an adult notwithstanding that the abuse occurred many years or decades earlier. 

The report is to be made to a relevant chief officer of police or relevant local authority director (unless there is no relevant child in England and Wales in which case the reporting is just to the police).

Part three of our blog series will consider the circumstances when reporting is not required.