Guidelines published today by the Sentencing Council set down new sentencing rules for child cruelty offences, as well as failing to protect girls from the risk of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The new protocols will come into force on 1 January, 2019.

The guidance covers three separate offences:

  • cruelty to a child;
  • causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm; and
  • failing to protect a girl from the risk of FGM

The guidelines come three months after the Justice Committee released a report in which the parliamentary group made several recommendations, including the addition of two further offences:  causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm, and failing to protect a child from the risk of FGM. The report also offered a range of aggravating and mitigating factors to be taken into account when sentencing offenders for child cruelty and FGM related crimes, which appear to be reflected in the new guidelines.

Sentencing Council member Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, gives her thoughts on the new guidelines in the Council’s press release:

“Child cruelty offences vary greatly. They can range from a one-off lapse of care which puts a child at risk of harm to a campaign of deliberate cruelty which leads to serious injury or even death. This new guideline will help ensure sentences that reflect what the offender has done and the harm to the child. It states for example that cases involving very significant force, or multiple incidents of serious cruelty should always be treated as being in the highest category of culpability. The guideline will also assist sentencers in cases where the offender has also been the victim of abuse from another.”