Teachers to face jail if they fail to protect children from abuse

Cameron reveals new proposals, as 'damning' report on child sexual abuse in Oxfordshire is published

ROTHERHAM, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 03:(EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters.) A teenage girl, who claims to be a victim of sexual abuse and alleged grooming, poses in Roth
(Image credit: 2014 Getty Images)

Teachers, police officers and council staff could face up to five years in prison if they fail to report or act on clear evidence of child abuse, under new proposals from David Cameron.

The Prime Minister wants to upgrade the status of child sexual abuse to "national threat", on par with terrorism and serious organised crime.

It comes after a series of high-profile child sex abuse revelations, including cases in Rotherham and Oxford.

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Cameron is expected to say that "professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable" and council bosses who "preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure".

The "wilful neglect" offence was first introduced in the Criminal Justice and Courts Act passed earlier this year, but currently applies to individual care workers or care provider organisations looking after children and adults in the NHS and adult care homes. Cameron plans to extend the offence to a wider group of public service workers.

Some critics claim the measure could lead to scapegoating, where individuals are blamed for organisational failings, says The Guardian.

But Cameron is expected to say that it is about "making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officers and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do".

The proposals coincide with the publication of an independent inquiry that is expected to find that more than 300 children were sexually exploited by gangs in Oxfordshire over 15 years.

The "damning" report highlights the failures of police and social services to stop years of sexual torture, trafficking and rape, says the Guardian.

A previous investigation into grooming in Rotherham found more than 1,400 children suffered sexual abuse and violence over 16 years.

At a summit in Downing Street today, Cameron is expected to say: "Children were ignored, sometimes even blamed, and issues were swept under the carpet – often because of a warped and misguided sense of political correctness. That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated."

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