Mandatory Reporting of Child Abuse Bill
The public is concerned about the under-reporting of serious child abuse cases in Hong Kong and there have been calls for introducing a mandatory reporting regime. The Government announced in the 2021 Policy Address that it would take forward the MRR legislation with the target of introducing a bill into the Legislative Council in the first half of 2023 and that mandated reporters would receive appropriate training to enhance their capacity for early identification and handling of child abuse cases. The Bill was gazetted on June 2, 2023 and submitted to the Legislative Council for deliberation on June 14, 2023. The following are the key proposals of the Bill:
According to the definitions of the SWD “Protecting Children from Maltreatment-Procedural Guide for Multi-disciplinary Cooperation”, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the World Health Organization, the working group proposes to define children as persons aged below 18.
Scope of Reporting
The working group proposes that mandated reporters should be required to make a report as soon as practicable if, during the course of work, they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child “has been suffering serious harm” or “is at real risk of suffering serious harm”.
Acts or omission that may cause serious harm to a child include examples set out below –
(a) inflicting physical injury on the child by violent means;
(b) forcing or enticing the child to take part in any sexual activity;
(c) intimidating, terrifying or denigrating the child in a severe or repeated manner such that the child’s psychological health is endangered or impaired;
(d) neglecting the child’s basic needs in a severe or repeated manner such that the child’s health or development is endangered or impaired.
Professionals who have frequent contacts with children and whose professions are currently subject to some form of regulation:1. Social workers
Level of penalty
Referring to some local legislation, the working group proposes a 3-month imprisonment and a fine at level 5 (i.e. currently HK$50,000) if mandated reporters do not comply with the reporting requirement.
1. Honestly and reasonably believes that the delay is in the best interests of the child, and on the condition that he/she must, during the delay, take actions that are reasonably necessary in the circumstances to protect the interests of the child.
2. Honestly and reasonably believes that another mandated reporter has made a report regarding the same or substantially the same, harm or risk.
1. A person must not inhibit or obstruct a mandated reporter from making a report.
2. A person must not disclose the identity of a mandated reporter.
3. A mandated reporter does not incur any civil or criminal liability only by making a report.
4. A mandated reporter must not be held to have breached any code of professional conduct or ethics, only by making a report.
1. To provide relevant training to enhance mandated reporters’ capacity.
2. To increase the supply of emergency placement for children.
3. To enhance public education at family, institutional and community levels.
4. To strengthen and review existing preventive and supporting measures.
ImplementationTo implement the Mandatory Reporting Mechanism 18 months after publication of the enacted legislation in the Gazette to allow sufficient lead time.