Failure to report child abuse may get you in jail for 20 years

Those who failed to report serious physical injury, or psychological and psychiatric harm to a child in their care could face jail terms of up to 20 years in the future under a new offence to be recommended to the Hong Kong government.

The Law Reform Commission has today released the final version of a report, which aimed at recommending imposing legal liability on those “causing or allowing the death or serious harm of a child”.

The proposed new offence – “failure to protect” would criminalize any “failure to protect a child or vulnerable person where the child’s or vulnerable person’s death or serious harm results from an unlawful act or neglect”.

Those who should file a report of any suspected child abuse include domestic helpers, social workers, teachers, medical workers, and those who are responsible for taking care of the child, according to the Commission.

An offender could be jailed for up to 15 years if their failure resulted in a child’s serious harm, and up to 20 years if it resulted in a child’s death.

Philip Beh Swan-lip, a member of the Commission, said the proposed legislation did not target professionals like care home workers or social workers.

“It is understandable they will be concerned of the possible legal liability on them, but they simply have to report any suspected child abuse case once they found out, and they have already fulfilled their responsibility,” he said.

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