Birth Registration: A child born in the UK receives the country’s citizenship at birth if one of the parents is a UK citizen or a legally settled resident. Children born in Northern Ireland may opt for UK, Irish, or dual citizenship. A child born in an overseas territory is a UK overseas territories citizen if at least one of the child’s parents has citizenship. There are special provisions for granting citizenship to persons who might otherwise be stateless. All births must be registered within 42 days in the district where the baby was born, and unregistered births were uncommon.
Child Abuse: The UK government did not publish annual statistics on child abuse.
The PSNI recorded 1,586 cases of abuse against a person under the age of 18 in Northern Ireland in 2012-13. In July the Historic Institutional Abuse Inquiry announced that it received 529 reports from victims of child abuse in 13 religious and state-run care homes and reformatory institutions in Northern Ireland from 1922 to 1995. In August the inquiry heard that during that period approximately 131 children from voluntary institutions or state bodies in Northern Ireland were sent to Australia. In some of these cases, parental consent was not sought, and some children were deprived of their real identities by the withholding of birth certificates.
In Bermuda in 2013, the most recent date for which statistics were available, cases of physical abuse of children up to the age of 18 increased from 120 in 2012 to 127 in 2013. The Department of Child and Family Services substantiated 49 of the abuse cases. Of the remaining cases, 60 were unsubstantiated, six were suspected but could not be proven, nine were pending with police, and three were deemed unrelated to child protection. The Department of Child and Family Services reported the number of referrals of children exposed to domestic violence decreased from 83 in 2012 to 70 in 2013. There were 86 cases involving lack of supervision in 2013 and a decrease in the number of referrals for child neglect, from 339 cases in 2012 to 297. Bermuda received 297 referrals for child neglect in 2013. Of those cases, 175 were substantiated, 73 unsubstantiated, 22 suspected, and 19 pending; eight cases were deemed to be unrelated to child protection.
Social service departments in each local authority area in the country maintained confidential child protection registers containing details of children at risk of physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. The registers also included child protection plans for each child. According to the charitable NGO National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), at the end of March 2013there were 50,732 children on child protection registers or subject to child protection plans in the UK. In Scotland, as of April 2013, there were 2,681 children on child protection registers. In Northern Ireland, as of March 2013, there were 1,914 children on child protection registers.
Early and Forced Marriage: On June 16, forcing a UK citizen into marriage anywhere in the world became a criminal offense in England and Wales. The new law provides for a maximum prison sentence of seven years. The minimum legal age for marriage in the UK is 16. In England and Wales, persons under 18 and not previously married require the written consent of the parents or guardians, and the underage person must present a birth certificate. In Northern Ireland persons under 18 need parental consent “or if appropriate an order of a court dispensing with consent.” In Scotland persons between 16 and 18 do not need parental consent to be married. In Bermuda the minimum age for marriage is 18.
In 2010, the latest year for which the Office of National Statistics had official data, 3,106 women and 934 men between the ages of 16 and 19 married in England and Wales. In Scotland in 2010, the latest year for which data was available, 219 women and 79 men under the age of 20 married. In 2010 in Northern Ireland, 79 women and 42 men between the ages of 16 and 19 married.
Between January and December 2013, the FMU gave advice or support related to a possible forced marriage in 1,302 cases. Where the age was known, 15 percent of cases involved victims who were below 16, and 25 percent involved victims who were 16 or 17. The FMU handled cases involving girls and women from 74 different countries, including Pakistan (42.7 percent), India (10.9 percent), Bangladesh (9.8 percent), Afghanistan (2.8 percent), Somalia (2.5 percent), Iraq (1.5 percent), Nigeria (1.1 percent), Saudi Arabia (1.1 percent), Yemen (1 percent), Iran (0.8 percent), Tunisia (0.8 percent), the Gambia (0.7 percent), Egypt (0.6 percent), and Morocco (0.4 percent). The origin was unknown in 5.4 percent of cases. Persons with disabilities of all ages were victims in 97 cases, and 12 involved lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) victims of all ages.
In Bermuda there were no marriages of persons under the age of 18 in 2013 or the first six months of 2014.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is illegal in the UK, with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison or a fine or both. The Home Office estimated that up to 24,000 girls under the age of 15, whose ethnic background included a tradition of FGM/C. The first official figures published on the numbers of FGM/C cases seen by hospitals in England showed that 467 previously unknown survivors of genital mutilation received treatment at hospitals in England in September. Police operations at airports and ports over the summer led to the arrest of several adults suspected of taking children abroad to undergo FGM/C. The first prosecution for the practice was in court at year’s end.
The 24-hour FGM/C helpline of the NSPCC received 321 reports, 148 of which were referred to police and children’s services.
During the year the government made dealing with FGM/C a stated priority. Since September all hospitals must record information on patients who have undergone FGM/C, and the Home Office has launched a 100,000-pound ($156,000) FGM Community Engagement Initiative aimed at raising awareness of FGM/C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The minimum age of consensual sex in the UK is 16. In Bermuda the legal minimum age for consensual sex is 16 for heterosexuals and lesbians and 18 for gay men.
The penalties for sexual offenses against children and the commercial sexual exploitation of children range up to life imprisonment. In December 2013 the chief justice issued new sentencing guidelines for magistrates in sex offense cases to provide for consistency in sentencing. Released persons convicted of sexual offenses must register with police and notify police any time they change their name or address, or travel outside the UK.
The NSPCC recorded 18,915 sexual crimes against children under 16 in England and Wales in 2012-13. Scottish police data for 2012-13, the most recent available, showed 429 sexual offenses involving children between the ages of 13 and 15. In Bermuda the number of cases of sexual abuse of children up to 18 increased from106 cases in 2012 to 126 in 2013, of which 59 were substantiated, 29 were unsubstantiated, three were suspected but could not be proven, 34 were pending with police, and one was deemed unrelated to child protection. The majority of the cases were child-on-child referrals or children exhibiting sexualized behaviors. Of the 126 referrals, 86 were girls and 40 boys.
In August the Rotherham city council released an independent report detailing more than 1,400 cases of sexual child exploitation that took place from the early 1990s to the release of the report. The report detailed a failure of Rotherham police and social services to provide adequate response and support to victims. The home secretary announced further investigations to determine where responsibility lay and how to address the problem. The IPCC was to investigate the conduct of 10 police officers involved for their handling of the matter.
A Multi-agency Public Protection Arrangements report published in February reported 43,664 sexual predators in England and Wales. In Scotland in 2012-13, there were 3,314 registered sex offenders. As of July, Northern Ireland registered 197 sexual offenders, again without differentiation among offenses against adults or children.
In September the press reported 602 cases of child trafficking in 2013. Of these, 65 percent were girls subjected to sexual exploitation. The victims were mainly from Romania, Poland, and Albania, but also included some British citizens.
International Child Abductions: The UK including Bermuda is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Due to its distinct and separate legal system, Scotland has an independent body for handling Hague Convention cases and communicates directly with Hague Convention authorities. For country-specific information see the Department of State’s website at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/english/country/united-kingdom.html.