PARENTS who deny their children love or affection could be jailed under new child neglect laws in Britain.
Changes to the laws will make “emotional cruelty” a crime for the first time, alongside physical or sexual abuse, the London Telegraph reports.
Parents found guilty under the “Cinderella Law”, which will be introduced in the Queen’s Speech in early June, could face up to ten years in prison.
Existing laws in England and Wales only allow an adult responsible for a child to be prosecuted if they have deliberately assaulted, abandoned or exposed a child to suffering or injury to their health.
Under the new laws, anything that deliberately harmed a child’s “physical intellectual, emotional, social or behavioural development” will be considered a crime.
This could include deliberately ignoring a child, or showing them no love, over prolonged periods, damaging the child’s emotional development.
Other new offences could include forcing a child to witness domestic violence or forcing degrading punishments upon them.
Part of the reasoning behind the changes is to allow police to intervene earlier in emotional abuse cases. Currently, only civil intervention by social workers is possible when the abuse is emotional.
Robert Buckland, a Conservative MP and part-time judge who has been campaigning on the issue, said “the time for change is long overdue”.
“Not too many years after the Brothers Grimm popularised the story of Cinderella, the offence of child neglect was introduced,” Mr Buckland wrote for the LondonTelegraph.
“Our criminal law has never reflected the full range of emotional suffering experienced by children who are abused by their parents or carers. The sad truth is that, until now, the Wicked Stepmother would have got away scot-free.”
The campaign to amend The Children and Young Persons Act, with sections dating back to 1868, was started in April 2012 by the charity Action for Children. A spokesman for the charity said the change was a “monumental step” towards protecting the young.
“I’ve met children who have been scapegoated in their families, constantly humiliated and made to feel unloved,” Sir Tony Hawkhead, the charity’s chief executive said. “The impact is devastating and can lead to lifelong mental health problems and, in some cases, suicide.
We are one of the last countries in the West to recognise all forms of child abuse as a crime. Years of campaigning have been rewarded. The Government has listened.”