Child Abuse in UK Law

Leading Cases
  • Re KD (A Minor) (Access: Principles)
    • House of Lords
    • 18 Feb 1988

    The best person to bring up a child is the natural parent. It matters not whether the parent is wise or foolish, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, provided the child's moral and physical health are not endangered. Public authorities exercise a supervisory role and interfere to rescue a child when the parental tie is broken by abuse or separation.

  • D v East Berkshire Community NHS Trust and Another
    • House of Lords
    • 21 Abr 2005

    A doctor is obliged to act in the best interests of his patient. The best interests of a child and his parent normally march hand-in-hand. But when considering whether something does not feel 'quite right', a doctor must be able to act single-mindedly in the interests of the child. He ought not to have at the back of his mind an awareness that if his doubts about intentional injury or sexual abuse prove unfounded he may be exposed to claims by a distressed parent.

  • Re H (A Minor); Re K (Minors) (Child Abuse: Evidence)
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 25 May 1989

    He may have found individual facts, such as inappropriate knowledge or behaviour, which constitute a high degree of concern about the child without being able to say on the test that they amount to actual abuse. He may have sufficient evidence of concern about the past care of the child to be satisfied that the child was in a potentially abusing situation without having sufficient evidence to be satisfied as to the extent of the abuse in the past or the identity of the abuser.

  • M and Another v London Borough of Newham and Others; X and Others v Bedfordshire County Council
    • House of Lords
    • 29 Jun 1995

    Second, the task of the local authority and its servants in dealing with children at risk is extraordinarily delicate. Legislation requires the local authority to have regard not only to the physical well being of the child but also to the advantages of not disrupting the child's family environment: see, for example, section 17 of the 1989 Act. As the Report of the Inquiry into Child Abuse in Cleveland 1987 (Cmnd.

    In my judgment, the courts should proceed with great care before holding liable in negligence those who have been charged by Parliament with the task of protecting society from the wrongdoings of others.

  • B (Children) (Care Proceedings: Standard of Proof) (CAFCASS intervening)
    • House of Lords
    • 11 Jun 2008

    If a legal rule requires a fact to be proved (a "fact in issue"), a judge or jury must decide whether or not it happened. There is no room for a finding that it might have happened. The law operates a binary system in which the only values are 0 and 1. If the party who bears the burden of proof fails to discharge it, a value of 0 is returned and the fact is treated as not having happened.

    There is only one rule of law, namely that the occurrence of the fact in issue must be proved to have been more probable than not. Common sense, not law, requires that in deciding this question, regard should be had, to whatever extent appropriate, to inherent probabilities. If a child alleges sexual abuse by a parent, it is common sense to start with the assumption that most parents do not abuse their children. In many cases, the other evidence will show that it was all too likely.

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