Child abuse is a generic term describing the physical or mental mistreatment of anyone under the age of 16.
This abuse takes a variety of forms, from serious sexual and physical assaults to mental and psychological ill-treatment.
Child abuse can be conducted by commission, such as with sexual assault, or by omission, as in the case of neglect or abandonment.
Child abuse is a particularly sensitive, emotive and delicate issue, and is widely perceived as a heinous crime by the general public.
Most forms of child abuse are a criminal offence but civil actions may be taken in negligence against local authorities and police entrusted with child protection.
There is a vast range of legislation and common law guidance regulating the treatment of children, but the earliest statutory examples are the Infant Life Protection Act 1872 (regulating ‘baby farming’) and the Children Act 1889, imposing criminal sanctions to deter mistreatment of c