By Isla Wallace and Lisa Bunting (NSPCC Northern Ireland Policy and Research Unit) August 2007
The concept of mandatory reporting originated in the USA, and refers to legislation that specifies who is required by law to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect.
In England, Scotland and Wales there is no formal requirement in law to report child protection concerns to the statutory authorities. However, in Northern Ireland, Section 5(1) of the Criminal Law Act (1967) provides for a criminal offence of failing to disclose an arrestable offence to the police, which, de facto, includes most offences against children.
Whilst the mandatory reporting debate is less active in other UK jurisdictions, recent developments in the Republic of Ireland (RoI), together with the existence of the Criminal Law Act (1967) provisions, make this a more salient issue in Northern Ireland.
An examination of local, national and international arrangements for the mandatory reporting of child abuse: the implications for Northern Ireland (PDF, 544KB) is intended to increase our understanding of the impact of mandatory reporting through reviewing the international evidence and experiences of mandated reporting legislation.
As part of this, consideration is also given to whether or not mandatory reporting legislation better protects children and young people from abuse. It includes an overview of international reporting systems, an analysis of the evidence relating to the impact of mandatory reporting laws, and an exploration of the factors that are associated with reporting behaviours and attitudes. It also briefly describes the reporting systems currently in operation within the UK and examines the Northern Ireland reporting system in relation to the findings from the international evidence.
Wallace, I. and Bunting, L. (2007) An examination of local, national and international arrangements for the mandatory reporting of child abuse: the implications for Northern Ireland (PDF, 544KB) Belfast: NSPCC Northern Ireland Policy and Research Unit. ISBN: 9781842280799.