There are many circumstances in which somebody can be accused of child abuse. A false accusation of child abuse is often a means of exerting control if a relationship or marriage has broken down, or as a form of ‘punishment’ or an attempted act of revenge from a partner or spouse.
Other parties may also allege an instance of child abuse where they have become aware of concerns or made certain assumptions, such as a teacher, a healthcare professional, a representative of the local authority or a specialist agency such as the NSPCC.
If you have been wrongly accused of child abuse, the emotional consequences are considerable. You are likely to be extremely concerned about the implications of the accusation on your reputation, plus the potential impact of a false allegation on your future.
If you have been accused of child abuse, you should seek specialist legal representation as soon as you can. You do have rights and an experienced legal representative can work with you to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.
Child abuse in UK law
Under UK law, child abuse includes physical, sexual and emotional offences towards a child, alongside child cruelty and neglect.
Offences classified as child abuse include:
- Abandonment of a child
- Harassment of a child
- Child cruelty
- Child neglect
- Parental assault where reasonable chastisement is not an adequate defence
- Familial abduction
- Forced marriage involving a minor
- Sexual offences (including historic sexual abuse)
- Child prostitution
- Child pornography
- Child trafficking
- Child homicide
Offences not classified as child abuse under UK law include:
- Medical negligence
- Property offences
- Motoring offences causing injury to a child
- Motoring offences causing the death of a child
Your legal rights if you are falsely accused of child abuse
The police are obliged to investigate an allegation of child abuse to determine if a child is at risk, or is already suffering from harm. If the allegation of child abuse is within the family, the police will involve a social worker to ensure the welfare of the child.
There will be child protection issues and applications may be made by social services for children who are perceived to be at significant risk to be removed from the home in certain extreme situations.
If you are accused of child abuse, you may either be arrested and taken to the police station, or asked to attend your local police station for a voluntary interview – a Caution Plus 3.
It’s crucial to seek legal advice whether you are arrested or attend a voluntary interview and it is your right to do so. Our experienced solicitors will be able to advise you at every stage of the police interview procedure and throughout your case, whatever your individual circumstances, to ensure you are fairly represented and any necessary evidence is properly assessed.
The police will investigate all alleged criminal offences involving children, but they don’t always decide to prosecute as it is sometimes deemed more appropriate for the child’s family to work with social workers to protect the child.
We understand that a case of alleged child abuse is unique and likely to be extremely complex and sensitive. If you are facing a false accusation of child abuse, you may fear being kept away from your children.
At Lawtons, we are experienced in defending cases where an individual has been wrongly accused of child abuse and we will support and advise you throughout.
Sentencing for cases of child abuse
If you are found guilty of child abuse in the UK, the sentence will depend on a number of factors unique to the offence, such as the severity of the alleged offence and whether the allegation is one of child sexual abuse.
If the alleged offence was non-sexual, the offence may be heard in either the magistrates’ court or the crown court, depending on the nature and severity of the offence.
If the alleged offence was sexual, the case will be heard in the crown court.
The implications of a false accusation of child abuse for the accuser
If an individual is found to have falsified evidence in the case, they may be found guilty of perverting the course of justice. If they give false evidence against you in court, they could be found guilty of committing perjury – both of which are are serious criminal offences, with penalties involving a prison sentence.
What to do if you are wrongly accused of child abuse
If you have been accused of child abuse, you should seek expert legal advice as soon as possible. Our experienced solicitors are able to advise you on this complex area of the law. Get in touch with us to discuss the individual circumstances of your case.
We can provide support at every stage of the legal proceedings and we will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome for you, whilst aiming to minimise the impact on your reputation.