Being falsely accused of child abuse (whether physically or sexually), or neglecting their welfare is the stuff of nightmares for parents. Ever since paediatrician C. Henry Kempe published an article entitled ‘The Battered Child Syndrome’ in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in which he observed that it was common practice to offer ‘patently absurd’ reasons for the injuries of children, people working with young people have come under increasing pressure to refer suspected child abuse. And following the publication of a report which stemmed from a seven-year inquiry into child abuse in England and Wales there are now calls to prosecute anyone working with children who fail to report child sexual abuse.
False child abuse claims can occur when a relationship breaks down and one parent accuses the other of harming and/or neglecting their children. Regardless of how the false allegations or suspicions come about, being investigated in connection with child abuse claims can have a disastrous impact on your personal and professional life.
There are cases where underlying medical reasons may lead to symptoms or physical signs which would lead a person to report child abuse. Whilst these are rare, cases where child abuse accusations have been levelled against parents or caregivers which are due to conditions such as brittle bone syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 4 (EDS IV) do occur.
Obtaining legal advice at an early stage is crucial. If you would like to discuss any aspect of your case, for discrete advice please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is classified as child abuse?
Child abuse occurs when a person under 18 years is subjected to negligence or harm. Child abuse is defined into four main categories:
- Physical abuse – punching, kicking, burning, slapping, or false imprisonment.
- Sexual abuse – causing a child to watch or participate in sexual activities or involving a child in the production of indecent images.
- Emotional abuse – being made to feel worthless or to blame for something outside of their control, being bullied, and/or witnessing domestic abuse.
- Neglect – failure to provide adequate food, shelter, and/or clothing, failure to treat medical problems, poor hygiene and cleanliness, and/or lack of social contact.
The above is only a small selection of child abuse examples.
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 also provides an extensive definition of child cruelty to a person under 16 years.
If I am accused of child abuse, can my children be removed?
If the allegations stem from within the family or a referral is made from a health professional or a school, a social worker may be instructed to protect the welfare of the child. If it is deemed that it is not safe for the child to remain in the home, social workers can apply to the court for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). An EPO is considered drastic, and the court will only grant one if it is satisfied that doing so is necessary and proportionate.
The police are obliged to investigate any allegations of child abuse. Under section 46 of the Children Act 1989, the police can place a child under police protection for up to 72 hours if they believe that child to be at risk of “significant harm”. The local authority will be charged with finding suitable accommodation for the child in question.
Harm is defined by Section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989 as:
‘the ill-treatment or the impairment of health or development including, for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another.’
It is always preferable that any removal of a child from their parent or carer is achieved via an EPO. If the police have placed your child under police protection, it is imperative that you contact a child abuse solicitor immediately. They can review your circumstances and advise you on the best action to take.
What are my legal rights if I am taken to the police station concerning child abuse allegations?
If the police receive concerns about child abuse the matter will be dealt with by a specialist child abuse investigation team. The local authority will also be notified. As well as placing the child under police protection, officers may:
- share information with the child’s school and/or doctor
- visit and speak to the child, either with or without parental permission
- visit the home where the child lives or where the offence took place
- search for and seize evidence connected with the allegations, for example, laptops and mobile phones
- arrange for the child to be examined by a healthcare professional
- take statements from potential witnesses
If you have been arrested or asked to come to the police station to attend an interview regarding child abuse allegations, you have the right to have a solicitor present before you answer any questions or make a statement. This legal advice is free and independent of the investigating agencies. You should also ensure you have a solicitor accompany you to any meetings with the local authority or the social worker assigned to your case.
There are likely to be several organisations involved in investigating your matter at any one time. Although a framework has been developed to aid the exchange of information in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases, the risk of allegations not being investigated adequately remains high. An experienced child abuse solicitor will be able to spot evidence that can prove the allegations that you have hurt or neglected your child are false or ill-founded.
falsely accused of child abuse Advice
Being plunged into the terrifying situation of being accused of abusing your child is something that no parent can deal with alone. You may be faced with questions from the police, child psychologists, social workers, and other professionals who are under enormous pressure to ensure another ‘Baby P’ case does not result from their investigations. You need an experienced solicitor at your side, ensuring your best interests are protected when dealing with authorities and agencies as well as building a robust defence if you are prosecuted.
Reeds Solicitors can help with Child Abuse Accusations
If you have been falsely accused of child abuse, our criminal defence solicitors have the expertise and experience to assist you with defending the charges. For any matter related to child abuse allegations, please contact us through our contact page here. Alternatively, you can phone 0333 240 7373, or email us at email@example.com.