Failure to report child sex abuse should be criminal offence according to new report

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse says abuse is an "ever-growing problem"

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Those who work with children should be legally required to report cases of child sexual abuse according to a hard-hitting major new report.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse says abuse is an "ever-growing problem" and those who fail to report it to the police or social services should be prosecuted under new laws.

The Inquiry was originally set up in 2015 because of serious concerns that some institutions, including local authorities, schools and religious groups, were failing to protect children from sexual abuse.

It says child sexual abuse has been "hidden from public view for decades" and it remains under-reported and under-identified. It claims institutions often choose to "prioritise their personal and institutional reputations" ahead of the welfare of the children they're meant to protect, "concealing crimes from the authorities, failing to record allegations and 'moving on' known abusers."

The 500 page report also highlights the dramatic increase in the scale of online child sexual abuse. The UK has seen a rapid increase in the amount of self-generated child sexual imagery and the age at which children face the risk of abuse is getting younger and younger.

The Inquiry calls for the establishment of a new Child Protection Authority in England and Wales, a new Cabinet Minister for Children and for a national compensation scheme for victims.

Over the last 7 years, at a cost of £186.6 million, the Inquiry has looked at all aspects of child sexual abuse, holding 15 investigations and publishing over 50 reports. It has heard from hundreds of witnesses and thousands of victims and survivors since it was established in 2015.

The Chair of the Inquiry, Professor Alexis Jay said:

"For too long, child sexual abuse has been considered a problem of the past, despite lifelong impacts on its young victims.

"It's extent cannot be underestimated: the sexual abuse of children is an epidemic that leaves tens of thousands of victims in its poisonous wake and some will never recover.

"Across our investigations, we heard time and time again how allegations of abuse were ignored, victims were blamed and institutions prioritised their reputations over the protection of children.

"The nature and scale of the abuse we encountered were horrifying and deeply disturbing. As a society, we simply cannot file it away and consider it a historical aberration when so much of what we learned suggests it is an ever-growing problem, exacerbated by the current and future threat of the internet."

Figures show that across the country, there were an estimated 500,000 victims of child sexual abuse last year and that there are 3.1 million victims and survivors of child sexual abuse in England and Wales.

However, the total number of prosecutions and convictions for child sexual abuse is on the decline with figures showing they've fallen by around 25 per cent. There were nearly 7,000 successful prosecutions in 2016 falling to just over 4,500 in 2020.