Yet another horrific child abuse case has made the headlines – a malnourished 22-month-old toddler tied up in a dog leash and beaten, sustaining 70 bruises, abrasions and scars before eventually dying in the custody of a couple. Shock and sympathy aside, there needs to be a more integrated approach to ensure our institutional safeguards against child cruelty do not fail the vulnerable again. The latest tragedy is all too familiar following a series of high-profile cases in recent years. Sentencing the couple each to five years and four months’ imprisonment for abusing their friend’s daughter in 2019, the judge rightly expressed concern that the authorities had apparently failed to intervene at an early stage after the girl’s mother had her three older children taken into foster care. The court heard that the couple only escaped a potential murder charge because prosecutors had insufficient evidence to prove they contributed to the child’s fatal head wound. Child abuse came under the spotlight again recently following a surge in cases during the Covid-19 pandemic. Against Child Abuse received more than 1,200 reports and inquiries involving 248 children aged six to 14 in 2020-21. The Social Welfare Department experienced a similar trend, with the figure topping 1,023 cases in the first nine months of this year , up 57 per cent from the same period last year. These are likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as many incidents may not be reported. A recent proposal by the Law Reform Commission to create a new criminal offence of “failure to protect”, targeting those who fail to report abuses, will help raise public awareness and support law enforcement. But reporting is just the first step, and how it will be followed up is no less important. Cases that reach court are often a result of failures at many levels over a prolonged period of time. The situation is not helped by the piecemeal legal safeguards against cruelty. Notwithstanding the city’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the current system is far from focused and comprehensive. The latest court case is yet another heartbreaking reminder that our institutional protection for the weak and vulnerable is far from adequate.