Cinderella Law – Researching Reform Awaits Response From Action For Children

Reblogged on

Researching Reform

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…

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  1. I have followed these proposals with interest for some time. As always, I am happy for those who disagree to let loose – this is (apparently) still a free country, although the evidence for that is fairly sparse if you are objective. Anyway, here are just a few of my thoughts; and that is all they are.

    1. Any legislation, particularly criminal, which comes with any sugar-coated, ‘user-friendly’ title (such as ‘the Cinderella Law’) should be consigned to the nearest large waste bin without further debate, regardless of its content. It is emotive and over-traded;

    2. If passed, I will be making an immediate complaint to my local constabulary to arrest and prosecute immediately every single person in this country who sends their children to boarding school. Check out how many of these children are, as a result, bullied, abused, left feeling abandoned, a suicide statistic at some point, emotionally disengaged as adults etc etc;

    3. Legislation like this will almost inevitably only ever be enforced against you if you live on a sink estate, or your child is called Jayden, Chelsee or Tyler; calling it the ‘Cinderella Law’ would (regardless of point 1, above) be a complete misnomer. The wicked step sisters were actually fairly rich; I can guarantee that no rich parents would be seen in front of your local bench of beaks under this legislation;

    4 You really want your already overworked, underpaid, ‘up to the eyeballs in red tape’ local primary school teacher to now have to decide whether to report the fact that little Ryan came into class this morning and told her that his mum didn’t read his favourite bedtime story last night?

    5. For those who claim “This is only intended for the ‘really clear-cut cases’” I give you…..the Protection From Harassment Act 1997. ‘Don’t worry, we anticipate it will only be used in around 600 cases a year.’ It’s being used for thousands, including thousands and thousands of other complaints fielded by the police over ‘offensive tweets, Facebook posts’ etc. This one would be too, I assure you.

    6. Instead of criminalising parents (see point 3, above), how about investing in helping them to become better ones? Sorry, I forgot – that involves monetary investment which, of course, the prosecution process doesn’t! Here’s a novel thought; how about reaching out a hand to them, rather than offering them a big stick and a conviction? Or is that too much like ‘humanity’ for some people, who prefer their legislation with catchy slogans and an answer that always involves some people in blue uniforms turning up on your doorstep?

    Every person in this country – every single one, me certainly included – could make a compelling case that at some point or other they were ‘emotionally abused’ as a child. My mother was human, very flawed, had a crap life as a child and struggled to do her best, I’m sure, with all of that. How would I feel had PC Boggs turned up at the door to cart her off to the local nick to question her about her parenting? Horrified – then and now. Give the state some power over you, and they will use it to the very last inch. How do I know? Because they do, time and time again. The fact is that the state already has plenty of powers over people to deal with child protection issues and intervene in family life. Give them this one, and I guarantee you it won’t be the end of the story, but the start of a very, very unpleasant one.


    1. I could write a book on my concerns over this, Tracey. Let me give you an example of how I think (no, how I know) it would be abused, and it is a concrete (and genuine) case. Husband leaves wife (with their two children) to go and live abroad. They eventually get divorced. Their relationship then deteriorates horrifically, particularly after he meets the lady who becomes his new wife. Living in the Gulf, he becomes a Muslim (no issue in principle over that whatsoever; people make their own life choices). He then, however, decides to go on a campaign against his ex-wife in an effort to remove the children from the UK and get them to the Gulf. He tries a variety of things, including using the PFH Act, making complaints to the local police about ‘harassment’ over eg access to the garage for his belongings, emails in relation to child maintenance issues etc, none of which are true and the police reject them without even questioning her. He then seeks to get an order from the Family Court to take the children on a ‘holiday’ to the Gulf (no reciprocal arrangements under the Hague Convention for repatriation of children in abduction cases, so once there, it would be effectively ‘game over’ for mum). His application to do this includes alleging that mum is ’emotionally abusing’ the children. He does this for three months, until at the hearing three months ago the DJ raises his eyebrows about the claim of ’emotional and psychological abuse’ and the claim of ’emotional abuse’ is withdrawn by her ex-husband. Children stay in the UK. Happy outcome.

      I don’t doubt, for one moment, that this man would have used this proposed legislation to seek to make a complaint to the police against his ex-wife on the grounds of ’emotional abuse’, in an effort to strengthen his claim to take the children overseas. This woman was distressed for several months, fearing (a) the police knocking on her door over a ludicrous allegation and (b) having her children taken to a country where she would (as a non-muslim woman) have no rights and no chance whatsoever of getting them back to the UK.

      Of course, the fact a law may, and undoubtedly will be, abused by those with a motive should be no reason not to pass one if it is right and appropriate. I am just very concerned about the intrusion of criminal law into the arena of parentlng choices. How many families would be torn apart by this? I always favour finding solutions, and offering compassion and help, over giving people an albatross around their necks.

      Anyway, as I said, I am more than happy to field criticism, and I am sure there would be plenty. It seems to me that if you raise any objection whatsoever to any ‘initiative’ to keep children safe you are immediately seen as ‘suspect’. I’ve just seen enough of the law to know that the easy option is not always the right one, and that sometimes you just have to plant your feet against the flow of the river when you know something just doesn’t sit right.

      1. Hi Mark,

        Firstly let me apologise for the moderation on every post – it is not directed at you but I have had some, shall we say, questionable visits today.

        Anyway, back to your thoughts. I have been an active contributor to Natasha’s blog where this was originally published mainly due to being in the Family Law court for five years. I have not seen my children for ten years. A similar story to what you describe without the Muslim country. It all ended up with me in a criminal dock. Lawyer’s fees caught up with me and I committed fraud in order to pay them off. Yet, I have been castigated and even in the 21st century, mothers are not supposed without her children. There is still a stigma attached to that status.

        I was criminalised as though I had given my children neat vodka on their Cheerios and it has been pure hell. From a child of two warring parents, I was in a dock at the age of 9 giving evidence against my mother – I was then estranged from her until I was 42. So the fracturing that currently goes on and has done for all of my life without bringing a criminal charge into it.

        I absolutely agree with your last paragraph where you rightly say that if you’re objectionable to initiatives to keep children safe, you’re considered “suspect” I am not a lawyer, but I emerged from the current (pre Children’s Act 1989 and post-1989) Family Law courts, battered, bruised and very broken.

        I have a lot more to say on this and I will. But I thank you for your comments. It’s a topic that I could bang on about for hours.


  2. I think you are wise to moderate, Tracey. I don’t take it personally at all, so don’t worry.
    You have had a very tough time. Try to be kind to yourself – and to keep using your experiences in this positive way. You write beautifully and intelligently. It is a gift.

    1. I am not one for censorship but I had a feeling things were going to go awry. But fielded and it wasn’t too bad at all.

      It is my living – I look back (I know, I should not too often :)) and see it as my life and I have not known any different. But I have some peace at least now. I have my little business and I am no longer fearful of life.

      Thank you. Incidentally, I was picked up by two barristers and I shared my story on their blog at their invitation. A five-part series on my experiences in the CJS from an offending point of view. I wrote an article on the Victim’s Voice and it all went a bit mad from there. There are not many middle-aged women who are in the “open” serving a sentence as I am. Mind you, I wouldn’t write that lot again. It was awful yet helpful at the same time.

      It is really good to have your input and I will come back on Natasha’s article.


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