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To What Extent Does the Law of England and Wales Recognise a Childs Autonomy Interest

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It cannot be gainsaid that children enjoy immense protection under the laws of England and Wales. It has long been established that it is the duty of every state to act in the best interests of the child and to provide a safe environment conducive to his development. 1889 was the first time that the United Kingdom acknowledged the necessity of intervention in cases of child abuse between parent and child. In a sense, it recognized the autonomy of the person of the child and thus refuting the idea that the child is merely a property of his parents. The creation of the Children’s Charter expanded and added additional layers of protection for children and avenues for address. In 1974, following the death of Maria Cowell, there was a realization that the lack of coordination between child protection services imperiled the child. Hence Area Child Protection Committees (ACPC) was created for the purpose of ensuring greater coordination. In 1989, the Children Act came into force. One of its aims was to provide “a consistent framework for regulating all forms of substitute care”2. In 1991, the “Working Together Under the Children Act” was passed, which granted investigatory powers to the ACPC to look into cases of child abuse. The Victoria Climbie affair opened citizens’ eyes on how laws and policies are insufficient to protect children against abuse and maltreatment. Entrusted by her parents in the Ivory Coast to her great aunt Marie Therese Kouao so that she could be given a better life in the United Kingdom, little Victoria instead found herself in the hands of sadists — Kouao and her boyfriend Carl Manning. When she died on 25 February 2000, she had 128 separate injuries on her body, cigarette burns, scars where she had been hit by a bike chain and hammer blows to her toes.3 The investigation also disclosed that she was forced to sleep in the bin liner in the bath. Hers is the story of institutions that have failed our children, a bureaucracy that has neglected the most vulnerable members of our society, and individual officials whose individual omissions have resulted in collective negligence.