The offence is triable either-way with a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment; the maximum penalty on summary conviction is six months, or an unlimited fine or both.
- Evidence of emotional and behavioural consequences of child abuse is frequently presented in the following way:- impaired capacity to enjoy life – abused children often appear sad, preoccupied and listless;
- psychiatric or psychosomatic stress symptoms, for example, bed-wetting, tantrums, bizarre behaviour, eating problems etc;
- low self-esteem – children who have been abused often think they must be worthless to deserve such treatment;
- school learning problems, such as lack of concentration;
- withdrawal – many abused children withdraw from relationships with other children and become isolated and depressed;
- opposition/defiance – a generally negative, uncooperative attitude;
- hyper-vigilance – typified in the “frozen watchfulness” expression;
compulsivity – abused children sometimes compulsively carry out certain activities or rituals; and
- pseudo-mature behaviour – a false appearance of independence or being excessively “good” all the time or offering indiscriminate affection to any adult who takes an interest.
The Sentencing Council issued a definitive guideline on sentencing child cruelty which came into force on 1 January 2019. The guideline applies to all offenders aged 18 and older, who are sentenced on or after 1 January 2019, regardless of the date of the offence.
Included within the guideline is the sentencing guidance for cruelty to a child (assault and ill treatment, abandonment, neglect, and failure to protect), which attracts an offence range of: Community order – 8 years’ custody, with a maximum of 10 years’ custody.
This definitive guideline is available at the Sentencing Council website here.