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Adoption and Children Act 2002

Section 120: Meaning of “harm” in the 1989 Act

301.Section 120 clarifies the definition of harm in the Children Act 1989 to make clear that the harm a child may be at risk of suffering includes any impairment of the child’s health or development as a result of witnessing the ill-treatment of another person, such as domestic violence. “Ill-treatment” is already defined in section 31(9) of the Children Act 1989.  It is broader than physical violence and includes sexual abuse and forms of ill-treatment which are not physical.  Any harm a child suffers because a parent is being harassed or intimidated is caught by the definition of “harm”. The amendment will apply to all proceedings where the court applies the ‘welfare checklist’ in section 1(3) of the Children Act 1989.  This includes proceedings for contact or residence orders.

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