Advice Centre


New Sentencing Guidelines for offences involving Child Cruelty

On 1st of January 2019 the Sentencing Council published new sentencing guidelines regarding child cruelty offences. The guidelines cover the following offences:

  • cruelty to a child;
  • causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm; and
  • failing to protect a girl from the risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

It is important to note that the cases charged before that day might be affected by the new guidelines if the sentencing is to take place after 1st of January 2019.

Mrs Justice Maura McGowan, a member of the Sentencing Council, said: “Child cruelty offences vary greatly. They can range from a one-off lapse of care which puts a child at risk of harm to a campaign of deliberate cruelty which leads to serious injury or even death. This new guideline will help ensure sentences that reflect what the offender has done and the harm to the child. It states, for example, that cases involving very significant force, or multiple incidents of serious cruelty should always be treated as being in the highest category of culpability. The guideline will also assist sentences in cases where the offender has also been the victim of abuse from another.”

The guideline will not apply to all offences causing harm to a child. When an individual is prosecuted for an offence involving harming a child, the offence charged will depend on the circumstances of the case. It is important to distinguish the offences in the new guidelines from other offences such as assault, manslaughter and murder.  It is possible for one person to be charged with an assault of a child, whilst the another who allowed for this to happen, to be charged with allowing the child to suffer serious physical harm.

Where Such Cases Would Be Tried And What Is The Maximum Sentence?

These offences are often very complex and therefore, the guideline is designed to assist the courts to effectively asses each case that comes before either Magistrates or Crown Courts. The cruelty to a child offence is triable either way which means that it can be tried either in Magistrates Court or Crown Court depending on the severity of the case with the more serious cases being sent to Crown Court either for sentencing or trial if the defendant pleads not guilty. The remaining offences under those guidelines, namely causing or allowing a child to die or suffer serious physical harm and failing to protect a girl from the risk of a female genital mutilation (FGM), are both indictable only, which means that they will be automatically sent to Crown Court as they are too serious to be considered by Magistrates Courts. The maximum sentence for causing or allowing the child to die is 14 years of imprisonment.

Who is likely to be charged?

Some of those charged with one or more of the above offences may be incompetent parents, whereas others may have deliberately caused harm to a child or children in their care. It is important to note that Child Cruelty offences include not only parents but also other guardians who leave children at home alone, neglect them or put them at risk or subject them to ill treatment and violence that could led to serious injury or death.

The new guidelines make it an offence for a parent or a guardian to fail to protect a child from ill-treatment by someone else in the same household.

New Aggravating Factors

Furthermore the guidelines have also introduced a new aggravating factor, which is a fact that makes a case more serious, of an offender blaming others for an offence. The reason for this is because such cases will frequently involve one parent or carer/guardian seeking to blame the other for what happened in order to avoid prosecution. Additional aggravating factors which have been introduced are when the offender has a professional responsibility for the victim. This would, for example, include cases where the perpetrator was a teacher or a sports coach. It would mean that culpability, which is responsibility for the offence, would be higher in such cases. Another aggravating factor is when the commission of the offence was under the influence of alcohol of drugs.

How IMD Solicitors may be able to help

Our expert criminal law team will be able to fully review your case, provide you with detailed advice as to the strength of the evidence and the availability of any defence. We can represent you at the Police Station if the investigation for the offences is ongoing, and if the charging decision is made we would be able to fully prepare your case before the Court. It is important that you seek advice as soon as you become aware of an allegations against you.

If you wish to discuss your case with one of our legal experts today, please contact us on 0333 358 3062 or,

The full sentencing guidelines can be found at the following link:

View all articles

Call now to discuss your case:

0330 107 0107
Request Callback Mon-Fri: 9am-5:30pm