My Lords, I rise to speak to Amendment 40BZC, which is in my name. I ,too, welcome this clause. My amendment, which is promoted by the Children’s Society, finds a different way to address the same issues we have already debated in this group. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said in her introduction, there are currently a number of inconsistencies in the law. My amendment finds a particular way to try to address them.
The amendment changes the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to increase the age of a child victim of cruelty and/or neglect from under 16 to under 18. I argue that it is a simpler approach than some of the other amendments in the group. It would bring the criminal law into line with the rest of child protection legislation and would send a signal that 16 to 18 year- olds should be protected in the same way as children who are younger than 16.
The latest statistics, with which I was supplied by the Children’s Society, show that, in 2013, 14,290 children aged over 16 were children in need because of either abuse or neglect. A further 1,110 children aged over 16 were recognised as children at risk of significant harm and placed on a child protection plan. Of those, some 290 children had emotional abuse listed as the main category of their abuse.
As some members of the Committee will know, I sit in family court, youth court and adult court as a magistrate. I can clearly say that the most disturbing of those three jurisdictions is family court. You deal with some extremely vulnerable people—and some extremely vulnerable young people. It would be no surprise to anyone who works in either the youth or family jurisdiction that 16 and 17 year-olds are among the most vulnerable groups we deal with. I believe that they should be given the same protections as those aged under 16.