Children (Reporting of Alleged Abuse) Bill 1998
Minister of State, Frank Fahey T.D. who has responsibility for children’s issues at the Departments of Health and Children, Education and Science and Justice, Equality and Law Reform to-day announced a number of proposed amendments to the Children (Reporting of Alleged Abuse) Bill 1998. This Bill, which was introduced by Deputy Alan Shatter, was accepted by the Government at its Second Stage reading in early February and will be considered by the Select Committee on Health and Children at Committee Stage tomorrow 8th April. The purpose of the Bill is to provide immunity from civil liability to any person who acting reasonably and in good faith reports child abuse.
In framing the amendments to the Bill, the Minister of State said that he had two main concerns: Firstly, to strike the right balance between protecting those who, acting reasonably and in good faith, report child abuse as against the need to protect the good name of citizens; Secondly, he wants to provide workable legislation which will promote good reporting practice.
The Minister summarised the main amendments as follows:
- The definition of the abuse to be reported is being tightened and the appropriate authority to receive reports is being confined to Health Boards and the Gardai.
- Malicious reporting of child abuse is being made a criminal offence liable to a fine or imprisonment. It will be necessary for the prosecutor to show that a person made a report of child abuse “knowing that statement to be false” – in other words, a very high standard of proof is required to establish that an offence has been committed.
- The protections to employees who report child abuse are being extended to cover a greater number of employees and all forms of victimisation rather than dismissal only.
- It is proposed to change the title of the Bill to “Protections for Persons Reporting Child Abuse Act 1998”.
The Minister commented “I am satisfied that these amendments will strengthen the effectiveness of the Bill. They will ensure that the Bill achieves its intended purpose which is to encourage all members of the public to report child abuse to the Health Boards and the Gardai.”