There’s a father I know who I suspect may be a child abuser. He sends his kids away for weeks on end to a prison-like boarding environment run by authoritarian strangers. Even when they’re home he can barely find the time to speak to them because they’re always hiding from him in their bedrooms or he’s “busy” working.
Sometimes he smokes in the same room as them. He also swears in front of them and cracks really sick, offensive jokes. And he actively encourages them to do dangerous, stupid things like walk on the lake when it’s frozen over or try to climb up trees and cliffs or play with guns because he seems to think it’s quite funny upsetting other people with different values and also because he thinks flirting with death is part of the fun of childhood.
So: should I report myself to the authorities or what? Clearly once the Coalition’s new Cinderella Law is introduced in the Queen’s speech this summer I’m going to have to – and be ready to face the appropriate penalty: up to ten years in jail.
Apparently the law is the handiwork of a Tory MP (and part-time judge) called Robert Buckland, who justifies it with a quote so lame and cheesy you half wonder whether it was maybe written for him by Alan Partridge.
“Not too many years after the Brothers Grimm popularised thestory of Cinderella, the offence of child neglect was introduced,”he said, but added: “Our criminal law has never reflected the fullrange of emotional suffering experienced by children who are abusedby their parents or carers.
“The sad truth is that, until now, the Wicked Stepmother wouldhave got away scot-free.
The law will mean that for the first time in Britain “emotional cruelty” to children will join physical cruelty as a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment.
Buckland has been campaigning to introduce his law for years, without much success up till now. In February last year, his law was blocked by Justice Minister Damian Green who argued that it was not clear “how a new offence would work in practice.”
Indeed. So why is this misbegotten law suddenly being forced through the statute books now?
According to the Mail, it is because of a “concerted campaign by children’s charities”. Well bully for them. Of course charities are going to campaign for this kind of thing: it’s how their directors seek to justify their unjustifiable £100K plus salaries. But that doesn’t mean the government has to pay any attention, does it?
The Cinderella Law is classic Cameron gesture politics. As the next election approaches, he is almost certain to swing the Conservatives right in order to offset the threat from UKIP. So what he needs to counter this are a few sops to persuade the mushy centrists and soft leftists whose opinion he so highly values that the Conservatives have not once more turned into the “nasty party.”
Problem is, he’s doing so with what promises to be a very nasty (and expensive, and time wasting, and instrusive, but mostly unenforceable) law. Yes, it sounds a noble idea, protecting children from “emotional” abuse. But who is going to be in charge of deciding what “emotional” abuse is?
Are strict parents who smack their children and deny them TV and sweets except on special occasions emotional abusers? (In the warped Weltanschauung of your average social worker, I’d guess probably yes)
What about slack parents who don’t make their kids do their homework and who let them play computer games all day?
Isn’t this yet another “snooper’s charter” which will give social workers carte blanche to stick their noses into the lives of usually innocent families who just want to be free, as parents do, to bring up their children as they see fit rather than as outside meddlers might prefer?
And since when was any of this the state’s business anyway?