Action for Children’s Cinderella Law aims to update existing criminal legislation around child abuse by including a definition of risk of significant harm (like the one the family courts currently use), and making it a criminal offence to physically and emotionally abuse a child (carrying a maximum sentence of up to 10 years).

The proposals have incited a wide variety of reactions, not all of which have been favourable. The proposed law has also caused a great deal of confusion, partly due to the way Cinderella Law has been communicated in the media and also as a result of Action for Children’s own promotional material, which is unclear.

We wanted to clarify the length and breadth of this draft legislation and find out exactly what it entailed, so last week we wrote to the policy team at Action for Children’s headquarters to find out more. This is our email to the Team:

Hi guys,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to ask you a little more about your proposal to bring criminal law in line with family/civil law in relation to child abuse.

I work in the sector as a legal researcher and copywriter, and my work focuses heavily on child welfare, so I’d love to be able to ask you the following about the Cinderella Law, if that’s ok?

  1. The media have said that Cinderella Law will encompass conduct which includes not showing children love and affection and humiliating them. Does that comment stem from Action for Children itself or is it an assumption being made? 
  2. If such conduct is to be included, how will standards be set to ensure that professionals do not misconstrue the legislation and will cultural differences be considered? 
  3. Some family groups have asked me whether parental alienation would fall under Cinderella Law – might this be the case? 
  4. Under Cinderella Law, who will be deemed to have responsibility for a child and will it include teachers, foster carers, social workers and the local authority at large? 
  5. The current draft of Cinderella Law looks very similar to the Child Maltreatment Bill which was presented in the House of Commons last year. That Bill sets out criminal sanctions for parents who are found guilty of emotional and physical child abuse. However, the current Action for Children draft legislation does not seem to mention the sanctions – why is this?
  6. Risk of Significant Harm in family law is continually being refined by the judiciary in case law and through research carried out by child experts. It is, in effect, a work in progress. How will the criminal courts ensure that they are up to date and fully aware of the important nuances which stem from this threshold, before the law is introduced?

Thank you again. I’m getting a great deal of feedback and interest on Cinderella Law and I know your answers will be very well received.

Have a lovely weekend,Natasha 

We have not heard back from Action for Children yet, but we do hope they’ll get in touch. We know these are difficult questions, but they need answering.