TAIPEI (CNA) – The Executive Yuan on Thursday approved a draft amendment that will increase the maximum penalty for child abuse, including abandonment, physical or psychological abuse, to NT$600,000 (US$19,412).
Meanwhile, the maximum penalty for selling alcohol or betel nut to children will be raised to NT$100,000, according to the proposed amendment to the Protection of Children and Youths Welfare and Rights Act.
Medical staff, social workers, police and teachers will face a fine of up to NT$60,000 if they fail to report a suspected case of abuse, the bill stipulates.
The draft also states that police can ask prosecutors to investigate when a situation is deemed urgent, without any evidence of a crime.
Social and Family Affairs Administration Director Chien Hui-chuan (簡慧娟) explained that one of the bill’s principle aims is to involve law enforcement in child-protection at an early stage.
When social workers encounter difficulties visiting a family home, the whereabouts of a child is unknown or criminal activity involving a child is believed to have occurred or to be taking place, she said, prosecutors will be able to investigate after receiving a police report to that effect.
Another aim is to establish a database of individuals convicted of abusing children, Chien said.
According to the draft, child care institutions will be required to suspend unfit staff immediately pending an investigation and to notify the authorities of staff transfers and recruitment.
Failure to follows these rules could result in a fine of NT$50,000-NT$250,000.
In extreme cases an institution could be ordered closed or its license revoked.
In addition, all nursery centers will be required to install surveillance video cameras, the draft states.
About 90 percent of nursery centers have already installed video surveillance systems, according to Su Li-chiung (蘇麗瓊), deputy director of the Social and Family Affairs Administration.
The draft will be submitted to the Legislative Yuan and reviewed together with draft amendments to the Criminal Code to increase penalties for child abuse, which was proposed by lawmakers last month.
Among the draft amendments to the Criminal Code is a proposal for a penalty of one to five years in prison for the abuse of a minor under the age of 16 that results in impaired mental or physical health or development.
Currently, the law allows for no more than five years in prison for such an offense.
Under the draft amendment, perpetrators are subject to the death penalty, life imprisonment or a prison sentence of more than 10 years in cases where a child dies as a result of abuse.
Currently, perpetrators of child abuse are often tried on charges of injury resulting in death instead of homicide, which carries a heavier sentence.
By Ku Chuan and Chung Yu-chen