The College of Policing and the Director of Public Prosecutions today launched a joint public consultation to help strengthen the way the criminal justice system deals with child abuse and sexual exploitation.
The consultation comes in the wake of a number of high profile cases which highlighted the need for police and prosecutors to ensure an informed and fresh approach to the investigation and prosecution of sexual offences.
The College of Policing consultation will focus on draft new guidance for Child Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation. This will form part of a package of measures currently being undertaken to review police and multi-agency practice and learning.
The DPP and College of Policing guidance will set out clearly what is to be expected of police and prosecutors with responsibility for cases where a sexual offence has been committed against a child or young person.
The consultation, which closes on September 3, 2013, follows a series of roundtable discussions with members of the judiciary, investigators, voluntary sector and other stakeholders about the key criminal justice issues arising in cases of child abuse.
The key areas identified were: how credibility of the allegation should be tested, support for victims, redress for those victims who have delayed reporting abuse, information sharing, and the court process.
National policing lead on violence and public protection Chief Constable Dave Whatton said: “This consultation is a moment to reflect on how we can deliver the best for victims of child sexual abuse and ensure the right approach through the entire criminal justice process.
“Listening to the feedback and challenge from victim support groups as part of the roundtable consultations has resulted in proposals for some tangible improvement in our approach. It is right that this review has taken place and I hope over the next phase of consulting that we can develop guidance which will set a new standard for the police investigation of these complex investigations and help police officers and other professionals in their important work. We also have to recognise there are opposing views from key stakeholders and the guidance has to reach compromise acceptable to the courts and to victims.”
DPP, Keir Starmer QC, said: “The close working relationship that we have cemented with police colleagues on this issue has been vital.
“The guidelines that the CPS and the College of Policing have published take police and prosecutors through the difficult decision-making in these cases. I am determined that they will improve our performance.
“However, the guidelines have to be generally accepted by most people. That is why
there is now a three month consultation period which will allow anyone who has a view to respond so that we can publish final guidelines in the autumn.”
Alan Wardle, head of corporate affairs at the NSPCC, said: “These are hugely promising developments which we wholeheartedly endorse. Every effort must be made to encourage the victims of child sexual abuse to speak out. And once they have had the courage to do so the legal system should provide support, not obstacles which often erode their confidence and result in them not able to give their best evidence.”
Bernie Ryan, St Mary's SARC Manager, said: "St Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre was pleased to be invited to provide input to the roundtable discussions and to help shape and inform these interim guidelines. There are many challenges in providing appropriate services and support to people who have experienced child sexual abuse and I hope these draft guidelines will prompt full and frank discussion so that we can all arrive at a national consensus that is both achievable and victim-focussed."
Sue Berelowitz, Deputy Children's Commissioner for England said: "Recently, we have seen more high profile complex cases of child abuse and sexual exploitation come to trial because a number of forces are doing excellent work in this area.
"It is really encouraging that the College of Policing are working the Director of Public Prosecutions to further strengthen the way the criminal justice system deals with child abuse and sexual exploitation and in particular, the support provided to child victims. I welcome the public consultation they are carrying out on this issue and will be responding accordingly."
Following the consultation, responses will be considered and guidance amended. The final version will be published by the end of the year for implementation by police.
Today also marks the formal launch of the National Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel as agreed by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Crown Prosecution Service. For further details please go to http://www.acpo.police.uk/documents/crime/2013/201306-cba-csa-review-panel.pdf
Notes to Editors
The Child Sexual Exploitation Guidelines and Child Abuse Guidelines consultation documents can be found here: http://www.college.police.uk/en/20414.htm
Both documents are part of a much larger piece of work on Violence and Public Protection.
The Guidance on Child Sexual Exploitation is a wholly new document. It highlights key warning signs and risk factors and aims to improve understanding and provides advice on managing and investigating such cases. Content also includes:
raising awareness on methods of exploitation
how CSE can link to other types of offending, eg, youth violence
advice on the impact CSE can have on victims, eg, non-disclosure, credibility
advice on the categories of offences and legislation which can be used in CSE cases
This is an evolving area and it is expected that this guidance will develop over time taking into account further research and learning from forthcoming cases.
The Guidance on Child Abuse is a refreshed version of the pre-existing ACPO (2009) Guidance on Investigating Child Abuse and Safeguarding Children. Key changes to the refreshed guidance include clearer advice on the issues such as:
Access to Pre-trial therapy and counselling (5.8.3) and the use of registered intermediaries (3.8)
Support for victims during the investigation and before, during and after the trial process (4.7, 4.14 and 5.8)
The importance of Corroborative evidence (5.5.5)
Clearer advice on victim and witness identification strategies (5.6) and telling victims about other allegations (5.6.6)
Proving the allegation, in particular dealing with issues such as victims discussing the investigation between themselves (5.7.4), credibility of either the victim, witness or suspect (4.7.3 and 5.7.5)
The College of Policing has been set up as the new professional body for policing, setting guidance and standards underpinned by an evidence base. The College is headed by Chief Constable Alex Marshall and is supported by national policing business area leads of chief officer rank who work with all ranks of the service to develop best practice. Chief Constables, through ACPO, remain responsible for the operational delivery of policing.
Information on the National Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel can be found at http://www.acpo.police.uk/documents/crime/2013/201306-cba-csa-review-panel.pdf
Other national work:
National Group to Tackle Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People, formed at the end of March 2013, reports to the PM through a Ministerial group led by the Policing Minister. Membership includes the Home and Cabinet Office, Department of Health, Department of Education, ACPO, CEOP/NCA, Metropolitan Police Service, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Attorney General’s Office, Department of Communities and Local Government, the HMIC, the Association of Police Crime Commissioners, the NSPCC, Rape Crisis/ SERICC, Barnardos, the NSPCC. The group is focussing on prevention; policing; and the treatment of victims in the Criminal Justice System as three prioritised key work streams.