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NSPCC: One child killed every week in UK

At least one child on average is killed a week in the UK, a briefing from the NSPCC warns.

Children under the age of one are the most likely age group to be killed by another person, followed by 16- to 24-year-olds, the briefing states. Child homicides are most commonly caused by the child’s parent or stepparent; whilst adolescent homicides are most commonly caused by a stranger, friend or acquaintance.

“In the last five years there was an average of 62 child deaths by assault or undetermined intent a year in the UK,” said the briefing.

Mortality statistics report the number of children who died in any given year based on death certificates. Mortality statistics assign codes for causes of death.

• Deaths are coded as by ‘assault and neglect’ where it is known that a third party was culpable.

• Deaths are coded as by ‘undetermined intent’ where available evidence is insufficient to make a distinction between accident, self-harm and assault. Deaths of ‘undetermined intent’ are regarded as probable suicides where it concerns adults, but for young children a question usually remains as to whether a third, unidentified party was in fact culpable.

• Deaths are coded as ‘by sequelae’ of assault and neglect/undetermined intent where a death occurs as a consequence of, but a year or more after, an incident. Deaths by sequelae are included in counts of child deaths by assault and neglect in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but are excluded from current official counts in England and Wales.

Offence statistics provide annual figures for the number of child homicides recorded by the police.

Data on the number of homicide victims under the age of 18 is not published but is requested by the NSPCC on an annual basis.

• In 2018/19 there were 94 child (under 18) homicides in the UK: 86 in England, 4 in Northern Ireland, 3 in Scotland, and 1 in Wales.

• In the last five years (2014/15 – 2018/19) there was an average of 84 child homicides a year in the UK

• On average, at least one child is killed a week in the UK.

Child homicides are most commonly (31%) perpetrated by the child’s parent or step-parent. Few homicides of those aged under 16 were committed by strangers.
The victim was known to have been killed by a stranger in five offences in the year ending March 2019 (7%). As of 5 December 2019, there were 36 victims aged under 16 years (53%) for whom no suspect had been identified. This number is likely to fall as police investigations continue, the children’s charity added.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) homicide statistics include figures on the age and gender of victims of homicide in England and Wales. Their data shows children under the age of one have the highest rate of homicide (45 per million population) followed by those aged 16 to 24 years (18 per million population).

The briefing goes on to say that when a child dies or is seriously harmed as a result of abuse or neglect, a case review may take place, to learn lessons to better safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children. In England, from 2014-2017, 368 serious case reviews were undertaken of which 206 related to child deaths.

• 106 (51%) were related to, but not directly caused by, maltreatment (including sudden unexpected death in infancy and suicide)

• 49 (24%) were from fatal physical abuse/physical assault

• 24 (12%) were from deliberate/overt homicide

• 9 (4%) were from severe persistent cruelty

• 6 (3%) were from covert homicide

• 12 (6%) were from other causes/category not clear.

In England, under the statutory guidance Working together to safeguard children, local authorities should notify the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel where it knows or suspects that a child has been abused or neglected, if the child dies or is seriously harmed in the local authority’s area, or while normally resident in the local authority’s area, the child dies or is seriously harmed outside England.

The local authority must also notify the Panel where a looked after child has died, regardless of whether abuse or neglect is known or suspected. The Panel received 473 serious incident notifications between 29 June 2018 and 28 June 2019 and of those 473 notifications, 198 were in relation to child deaths.

The numbers of notifications received during this time period are not necessarily the number of incidents which have occurred during that period. Some notifications relate to incidents which occurred before 29 June 2018, but about which the Panel was not notified until after that date.

Statistics briefing: child deaths due to abuse or neglect


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