Proposals to create a law specifically targeting emotional abuse of children is littered with pitfalls warns one of the region’s leading family law experts.
Helen Morton of Solihull based solicitors Ellis Hass & Co said many in the legal profession feel the same about the so-called ‘Cinderella Law’ which would make emotional neglect and abuse a charge which could see parents facing court proceedings.
“This would be very difficult to police and cause a huge headache for everyone involved, and may well be unworkable” said Ms Morton, a highly regarded and experienced family law solicitor.
She adds “Very often in Private Law Proceedings, parents and/or grandparents raise concerns in relation to physical or emotional abuse of children and the truth of any such allegations is often hard to uncover.”
Her comments come in the same week as the NSPCC reported a 47% increase of child emotional abuse cases referred to the police and children’s services by the charity.
Currently the Children and Young Persons Act states that a person should only be punished for treating a child “in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health.”
However, the new proposals would include behaviour deemed to affect children’s emotional development.
“We could have situations where making a child cry for the slightest reason could be deemed emotional abuse,” said Ms Morton.
“It could be a child feeling that their sibling is being favoured or being in a tantrum because their friend got a new video game and they didn’t,” said Ms Morton, whose firm is based on the Stratford Rd, in Shirley, Solihull in the West Midlands.
“Child cruelty is abhorrent and all should be done to fight it, but how clear demarcation lines can be put in place to cover emotional abuse is an extremely difficult question to answer,” she added. “We hope it can be, but at the moment it is a proposal that clearly needs a lot of flesh adding to the bones.
The NSPCC figures, released on Friday, showed 60,000 people contacted their helpline in 2013/14, of which 8,000 calls were about non-physical cruelty.