Sir James Munby and Professor Dame Carolyn Hamilton reflect on progress made in addressing abuse and violence against children and the new challenges of keeping children safe

Published: Tuesday 21st November 2017

To mark Universal Children’s Day (20 November), Coram hosted a discussion on abuse and violence against children with Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, and Professor Dame Carolyn Hamilton, Director of Coram International.

Sir James Munby and Professor Dame Carolyn Hamilton with Thomas Coram portrait

The speakers reflected on how far we’ve come in recognising and addressing abuse and violence against children, in the UK and internationally.

Sir James Munby said: “What we recognise as abuse or violence affecting children is very much wider than 40 years ago. Who, 20 or 30 years ago would have been thinking about forced marriage, child marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM) to name but three as problems for invention by courts and as a society generally. So we’ve come quite a long way and have a much wider understanding now of what is meant by violence and abuse but there is still a long way to go.

“So many of these things are a question of building up a groundswell of opinion and my view is that if the judges can do something to mobilise public opinion by the remedies they adopt then so much the better. The important thing is that we all have to push together on these issues.”

Looking to the future of this issue, Professor Dame Hamilton said: "There is a slow change, but it isn’t enough to address one element of a child protection system – it all has to move along. Education is a critical part of this.

"I am concerned that the issue of violence against children might be slipping down the agenda rather than rising. However in 2019, the general assembly of the UN will host a session to explicitly address violence against children. This will be the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child coming into force, and will give us opportunity to see if we have achieved a measurably lesser level of violence against children.”

Sir James Munby concluded: “The family courts today are dealing with all sorts of problems thrown up by technological changes which we didn’t even contemplate 25 years ago. We haven’t an idea of what the problems will be in 2025 or 2030, there will be new technologies, and new concepts throwing up problems we haven’t even thought about. Violence and abuse extends far beyond physical violence, and we will have to recognise all forms of exploitation.”

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