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Organised and Complex Abuse

Contents

  1. Definition
  2. General Principles
  3. Setting Up an Investigation
  4. Access to Records
  5. Information Sharing
  6. Disclosure of Information to Third Parties
  7. Support
  8. Media Handling
  9. Closure and Review of Investigation

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Definition

Complex (organised or multiple) abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of children. It does not necessarily relate to both multiple abusers and multiple potential victims.

The abusers concerned may be acting in concert to abuse a child/ren. One or more adults may be involved and they may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.

It reflects, to a greater or lesser extent, an element of organisation on the part of the adult/s involved and may involve:

  • Aspects of ritual to aid or conceal the abuse of children;
  • Child sexual abuse networks where adults plan and develop social contacts with children for the purpose of gaining access to them in order to abuse them;
  • The production of child abuse images or abuse of children through sexual abuse and / or sexual exploitation;
  • Abuse in residential homes, boarding schools or other institutions;
  • Adult/s who seek contact with children for improper reasons through leisure or welfare organisations;
  • Adults seeking to contact children via electronic means such as internet or mobile telephones.


2. General Principles

Each complex abuse investigation requires thorough planning, good inter-agency working, and attention to the welfare needs of the children who have been harmed. The various agencies involved in a complex abuse investigation must be committed to working together in partnership to ensure that relevant information is shared and that appropriate action is taken to minimise the risk posed by alleged offenders to children and vulnerable adults.

Cases of organised abuse are often highly complex because of the number of children involved, the serious nature of the allegations of abuse, the need for therapeutic input and the complex and time consuming nature of any consequent legal proceedings.

Such cases usually require the formation of dedicated teams of professionals from the Police and Children’s Services for the purpose of the investigation.

Where professionals are implicated as suspected perpetrators of abuse, it is imperative that their line managers are not represented in either the strategic management group or the investigation team. An early mapping exercise to determine the scale of the investigation should help to identify such individuals.

It is recognised that those who commit sex offences against children often operate across geographical and operational boundaries and these procedures take into account the involvement of more than one jurisdiction.

In all investigations of organised abuse, it is essential that staff involved maintain a high level of confidentiality in relation to the information in their possession without jeopardising the investigation or the welfare of the children involved.

Subsequent information generated throughout the investigation must only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis.

The protection of any children identified as being at risk of harm remains paramount, but the sharing of information and confidentiality issues should be treated with due consideration for the alleged offender. Agencies must take appropriate practicable steps to minimise the potential disruption and damage to the alleged offender’s private and professional life caused by a protracted investigation, taking place in many cases several years after the alleged offence was committed. Where allegations are subsequently found to be ungrounded, or it can be proven that false or malicious allegations have been made, the needs of the alleged offender must be treated with sensitivity.

Relationships between the Police, Children’s Services and the Law Officers Department

Keeping children safe from harm requires professionals and others to share information. Often it is only when information from a number of sources has been shared that it becomes clear that a child is at risk of, or is suffering, harm. This is also true for vulnerable adult victims.

Complex abuse investigations must be undertaken as a joint operation involving the Police and Children’s Services with the Law Officers Department (LOD) being involved at an early stage, as appropriate. In many cases there will be value in involving an agency such as NSPCC.

The LOD is independent of the Police and should not be involved in operational decisions about the conduct of an investigation. However, the LOD can provide advice about the evidential or legal implications of issues arising during an investigation, and early involvement in this regard can inform decisions made by the investigation team. It is important that there is continuous advice and interaction between each agency throughout the investigation and any resulting prosecution.

Investigation teams should have visible support from the top ranks in the Police, Children’s Services and other agencies throughout the inquiry. This requires the involvement of senior personnel, at least at Chief Officer/Deputy Chief Officer and Assistant Director / Head of Service level in a central strategic management group. It is for each agency to determine their representative. These individuals must be empowered with full decision-making authority (e.g. in the allocation of resources).

Relationship with Third Sector Agencies

Third sector agencies may be involved at senior management level in the strategic management group meetings where they have had key, relevant involvement with families. At other times, liaison will be maintained through senior and frontline Children’s Services staff. Advice may be sought on specific issues (e.g. the availability of local counselling or support services). Protocols about access to third sector agency files will be negotiated and agreed.


3. Setting Up an Investigation

Initial Strategy Meeting / Discussion

Where a professional becomes concerned that a case may ‘fit the criteria outline above, the professionals must inform Head of Safeguarding and the PPU Detective Inspector immediately. A strategy meeting / discussion must be held within the working day that the referral is received.

The strategy meeting / discussion must:

  • Assess the information known to date;
  • Decide what further information is required at this stage;
  • Arrange for the gathering of all relevant information;
  • Establish whether, and to what extent, complex abuse has been uncovered;
  • Undertake an initial mapping exercise to determine the scale of the investigation and possible individuals implicated;
  • Consider a plan for the investigation to be presented to the Strategic Management Group including resource implications;
  • Consider any immediate protective action required.

The strategy meeting / discussion may include the referrer, if appropriate, a legal adviser and anyone else relevant to the meeting.

Having considered and discussed the information, those persons must, if in their view the suspicion gives reasonable cause to suspect complex abuse, pass the information on to the Director of Children’s Services.

Professionals who need to be Informed

The Director of Children’s Services must inform the Safeguarding Partnership Boards Chair, Chief Executive and senior managers of relevant agencies within two working days.

The Strategic Management Group (SMG)

To ensure a co-ordinated response, a SMG meeting chaired by the Police must be convened within five working days of the receipt of the referral. The SMG must act as a steering group and formulate policy and procedure. It must also be a primary responsibility of this group to ensure that the welfare of children is paramount at all times.

The membership of the group must comprise senior staff that are able to commit resources, and should have the following core membership which remains constant throughout the investigation (although there may be a need to add other personnel as the investigation progresses):

  • Director of Children’s Services;
  • Chief Officer or Deputy Chief Officer Police;
  • Police senior investigating officer;
  • Children’s Service / Head of Service – Safeguarding. The group may also include the following members as necessary;
  • Senior legal adviser;
  • Senior health representative (e.g. designated nurse and / or designated doctor for safeguarding children);
  • Senior manager Education Department;
  • Press officer/s;
  • Other individuals and agencies as appropriate (e.g. probation, NSPCC, other third sector organisations).

Links will also need to be established with the Chief Executive of the States to consider resource management and implications of the investigation.

A protocol for information sharing will be formulated and a clear media strategy agreed. It is most important to involve other agencies at this early stage so that senior managers can identify the need for, and arrange the provision of and allocate appropriate resources to, any support services identified. These may include community and specialist health services (e.g. psychiatric services, counselling services and sexual health services), although the specific services required will be dependent on the nature of the investigation. For example, adult medical and psychiatric services may be required, or the involvement of prison or probation services may be necessary where potential abusers and / or victims are under the supervision of those agencies.

At the first meeting of the strategic management group, the terms of reference will be agreed and minuted. At all subsequent meetings held in accordance with this guidance minutes must be prepared fully, detailing all policy decisions and actions. All minutes must be classified RESTRICTED.

The SMG meeting will take ownership of the strategic leadership of the investigation and agree a plan that includes:

  • A decision on the scale of the investigation and the staff required for the joint investigation group;
  • The identification of staff in both Children’s Services and the Police of sufficient seniority and experience to manage the investigative process;
  • The agreement of the staffing of the investigation, allocation of tasks and the membership of the investigation management group (including the line management responsibilities);
  • Arrangements for medical staff to conduct assessments;
  • Arrangements for sufficient administrative staff and information technology resources to support the investigation;
  • The arrangement and resourcing of access to expert legal advice;
  • Sufficient support, supervision and de-briefing for staff involved, to address the impact of stress on frontline workers from any agency involved;
  • The availability of expert advice where necessary;
  • Timescales for the stages of the investigation;
  • The management of public relations and media interest in the case;
  • Child witness support, if relevant.

Tasks and Functions of the Strategic Management Group

The tasks and functions of the strategic management group may vary from case to case but should also normally include the following actions.

The agreement of protocols:

  • To govern the future handling of the investigation (e.g. on media communication and victim / witness support);
  • For the sharing of information; to ensure that the investigative team secures full access to records from all agencies affected by the investigation and individuals holding important information, and to commit all parties to providing the necessary help with obtaining records from any outside organisations;

The SMG will develop a risk management protocol The protocol will be implemented for the duration of the investigative activity, and establish effective mechanisms for communication between the investigative team and the relevant Children’s Services to ensure that any current risks to children are acted upon immediately.

The SMG will monitor carefully the approaches used in contacting further potential witnesses and the conduct of any subsequent interviews to ensure the integrity of the investigation. Establishing a policy on how agencies deal with questions of potential financial compensation for victims. Practical guidance will be given to interviewing officers in line with this policy.

Ensuring that appropriate recording takes place of material that is obtained during the course of the investigation, and also the safe and secure storage of records, through the early appointment of a disclosure officer.

Agreeing a strategy to ensure that contact with the media is properly managed and co-ordinated throughout the investigation and any subsequent criminal proceedings, using a nominated press officer. This will allow frontline workers and other staff involved with the investigation to concentrate on the investigation itself.

Ensuring that careful consideration is given throughout the investigation to the health and social care needs of child victims and adult survivors and particularly those who will be acting as witnesses. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to employ dedicated personnel tasked to liaise regularly with victims and / or witnesses to ensure that they are kept up-to-date with the progress of the inquiry and to ensure their wellbeing.

Securing the provision of appropriate accommodation facilities and trained interviewers for all witnesses, and giving special attention to the needs of witnesses who are children, children or vulnerable adults and any who may be subject to intimidation.

Ensuring that, when appropriate, Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance for Vulnerable or Intimidated Witnesses, including Children is followed.

Checking with the Children’s Services representative on the SMG that, where children have been removed from their families, an appropriate placement is found for them and that their needs are being fully assessed. The group will also ensure that appropriate professional medical, physical and emotional support is being provided as needed, and check what other partner agencies can do to help. If the alleged abuse occurs in a residential setting, the SMG must ensure that the victim and any other children who may be at risk of harm are safeguarded and, if necessary, that suitable alternative accommodation is provided. Equally, children may require safeguarding in a range of non-residential settings such as foster care, day care, schools, hospitals etc.

The SMG will agree a schedule of dates for future meetings in order to:

  • Monitor the progress, quality and integrity of the investigation;
  • Review risk indicators for the children involved;
  • Consider resource requirements;
  • Consider the appropriate timing of the termination of the investigation;
  • Plan a de-brief meeting with the joint investigation group to identify lessons learnt.

Joint Investigation Team Membership

The strategic management group will identify those people from within and outside their organisations who have the required expertise for dealing with a complex abuse investigation. This will include experience of investigating allegations of abuse, compiling profiles and understanding methods of abusers (in cases of sexual abuse), child protection processes, children’s welfare, legal processes, disciplinary proceedings and working with child victims, adult survivors and their families.

This group, led by the Police senior investigating officer, will consist of experienced personnel from Crime Services and Children’s Services.

Membership may also be drawn as necessary from the appropriate health professionals (in particular the forensic medical examiner (FME), the designated and named doctors and nurses for safeguarding children and psychiatrists), education (head teachers and class teachers), LOD, probation and victim support services.

In selecting staff to be involved in the investigation, it is essential to identify individuals in whom it is possible to place absolute trust and who display sensitivity, honesty, empathy and personal maturity. It is vital that all investigators are and can be seen to be independent from those parties who are the subject of the investigation. Members of the investigation team may include existing members of the agencies conducting the investigation (as long as such individuals do not have any connection with the matter being investigated and appropriate arrangements are made to cover their normal duties while they are working on the investigation), appropriately qualified agency staff brought in on long-term contracts for the duration of the investigation, or an outside organisation.

Police officers chosen for the investigative teams must have a good investigative background. A significant proportion of chosen officers should have experience in child protection investigative work. All Police officers should have the personal qualities to cope with the inherent stresses and high emotional content of child protection investigation work. Similarly, social workers chosen for investigative teams will need a depth and breadth of experience in child protection investigations with the Police and both family justice and criminal court work. Where victims or witnesses are identified as having special needs such as learning or communication difficulties, more specialist staff will be required.

In selecting staff, consideration will also be given to requirements arising from the individual needs for the relevant child/ren e.g. gender, culture, race language, and where relevant, disability.

Practical Arrangements: Security, Accommodation and Communications

Administrative support, information technology and accommodation requirements must be addressed at the outset, including the storage of confidential records.

A key issue in any complex abuse investigation is ensuring the security of the investigation.

The enquiry may be managed on ‘HOLMES’, a management tool for running large / complex enquiries, managed by the Police in a secure environment.

The location of the group must take account, both geographically and organisationally, of the need to maintain confidentiality, especially crucial where the investigation concerns staff or carers.

Appropriate facilities must be available for video interviews and paediatric assessment.

Certain investigations may involve an element of whistleblowing. In this context, it should be possible for individuals to approach the investigative team with confidence as to their anonymity and personal safety. A secure telephone line and discreet access to the investigation team may help staff (and the public) to come forward and ensure confidentiality. However, it should be made clear that it is not possible to give an unequivocal guarantee of confidentiality during any subsequent court proceedings.

Investigation Management Group

An investigation management group will be set up under the strategic management group. Meetings of this group will also be fully minuted. The senior investigating officer or their deputy will chair the investigation management group and membership will include representatives from Children’s Services, Education and Health. Other agencies will be invited to be members of the group as appropriate.

The tasks and functions of the group may vary from case to case but should normally include the following matters:

  • To provide a forum where professionals can meet, exchange information and devise tactics for the implementation of agreed strategy on a day to day basis to progress the investigation;
  • To ensure a consistent strategy for interviewing victims;
  • To keep the strategic management group informed of any resource shortages experienced by professionals;
  • To ensure a consistent and appropriate inter-agency approach to practical and emotional support for victims and their families throughout the investigation, including facilitating such services where victims fall outside of the jurisdiction of the investigating agencies;
  • To co-ordinate inter-agency response to families and provide consistent information;
  • To ensure all staff working on the investigation are given support and ensure welfare concerns are addressed;
  • To ensure that issues which need to be shared by other agencies not represented on the strategic management group or investigation management group are communicated to those agencies and addressed;
  • To ensure that all staff involved in the investigation are clear about the parameters of shared information, data protection and confidentiality between the various agencies and observe the terms of the information sharing protocol agreed by the strategic management group. It must be clear that investigators will have full access to records and individuals holding important information;
  • To ensure that relevant intelligence has passed between agencies and to the Police major incident room (MIR). Intelligence will also be passed to force intelligence as appropriate.

Joint Investigation Team Responsibilities

The joint investigation team (supervised by the investigation management group) is responsible for:

  • Planning the overall investigation, involving record checking, evidence gathering, planning and undertaking a series of interrelated interviews and surveillance if required;
  • Holding planning meetings for individual pieces of work (e.g. video interview of a child and / or to protect a child);
  • Gathering other evidence including forensic evidence, interviews with alleged abusers, witnesses and other corroborative evidence;
  • Communication and liaison with other agencies on a need to know basis;
  • Convening interagency meetings and / or Child Protection Conferences as appropriate;
  • Co-ordination and timing of therapeutic services;
  • Regularly updating the SMG on the progress made and recommending when to close the investigation;
  • Consideration of arrangements for court hearings and support to children and families;
  • Recommendations as to the placement of children and any contact involving children and their siblings, relatives or other adults.


4. Access to Records

One of the most difficult issues in complex abuse investigations relates to the tracing, use, management and disclosure of documentary information relevant to the investigation. The investigative team will consider what information is required and where it is likely to be and take immediate steps to secure it within each agency. The investigative team will also need to access a variety of records during the investigative process.

It must be recognised by those seeking to trace victims that some may be very reluctant to co-operate with any inquiry and provide information. Staff records usually prove somewhat easier to trace due to pension rights, but casual and voluntary staff can prove elusive. A vast range of documentary information will exist on residents’ personal files, personnel files and general establishment records and registers. It is crucial that the location of these is quickly identified so that they can be secured.

The inquiry will need to take into account the relevant dates of service of the alleged perpetrator at the establishment to which the allegations relate and those at all other places of work throughout their entire service. The process of collating all relevant service dates, records of residents and members of staff for each establishment can be extremely difficult in practice.


5. Information Sharing

Confidentiality when Exchanging Information

Child abuse investigations rely critically on sensitive or highly confidential information being made available to investigators. Agencies must have a protocol in place to address the sharing of information. The strategic management group will ensure the effective use of the protocol for the purposes of any inquiry. All members of the investigation team must be aware of, understand and observe the protocol. It is vital to establish clear understandings about the rules governing disclosure of information to members of the investigating team and those colleagues and supervisors who require access to the information, who must be regarded as forming a circle of confidentiality. Consideration should also be given to the use of confidentiality agreements with regard to individuals employed to undertake the investigation.

Risk Assessment of Alleged Perpetrators

There needs to be an exchange of information in order to manage the risk to the public, and it is important to ensure the maximum confidentiality of such exchanges. Only relevant information may be shared in relation to alleged perpetrators and victims. The Police will share information relating to the alleged offence and any other relevant information. Children’s Services will share information about the known conduct and current professional / domestic circumstances of alleged offenders and, where applicable, victims.

Any other information relevant to protect the public from the commission of further offences must also be shared. Children currently living with an alleged perpetrator, or to whom an alleged perpetrator has unsupervised access, may be at risk of harm. Alleged perpetrators may have contact with children in other contexts (e.g. through youth work, day care, etc.) or as a volunteer.

When a statement of complaint is received in respect of an alleged perpetrator, a risk assessment is immediately required. It is necessary for the level of risk to be assessed so that steps can be taken to ensure that all current risk of harm is considered and minimised.

Access by the Police to Children’s Services Files

Children’s Services files frequently contain information or evidence relevant to an investigation. It is a matter for the Police Senior Investigating Officer (SIO), on a case-by-case basis, to decide what access to files is necessary to ensure an effective investigation. In arriving at the decision, the SIO will balance the competing issues and ensure that their decision and rationale, including all relevant information which impacted on the decision, is recorded.

If files are disclosed to the Police, the Island/authority must be aware that the prosecution may be required to disclose these to the defence in the event of a criminal prosecution. The prosecution is required to provide material to the defence which will form part of the prosecution case. The prosecution has a duty to disclose to the defence any unused material which may undermine the prosecution case or assist the defence case. This may lead to the disclosure of files, in full or in part, to the defence. However, in the case of sensitive material, it is open to the prosecution to apply to the court to withhold such material on public interest immunity grounds. In such circumstances, it will be a matter for the court to determine whether such files should be disclosed.

Both the prosecution and defence may also apply to the court for a summons requiring the production of Children’s Services files. In such circumstances they may oppose the application and it is open to the Children’s Services to seek to withhold the material on public interest immunity grounds. Again, the court will determine whether the files should be disclosed.

Information Sharing between Health, the Police and Children’s Services

The duty of confidentiality requires that, unless there is a statutory requirement to use information that has been provided in confidence, it should only be used for the purposes of which the subject has been informed and to which they have consented. This duty is not absolute, but should only be overridden if the holder of the information can justify disclosure as being in the public interest. Decisions to disclose information without consent must be documented and the public interest justification clearly stated. The tests for disclosure without consent will often be satisfied in child abuse cases where the protection from harm and the prevention and detection of crime are the reasons for disclosure.


6. Disclosure of Information to Third Parties

Disclosure of unused material to defence

Investigations of this nature are subject to the same rules of disclosure as any other prosecution. The Attorney General's Guidelines on Disclosure apply. The identification of unused material for the purpose of disclosure is somewhat more complicated than in other Home Office Large Major Enquiry System (HOLMES) inquiries, which usually revolve around only one case. The material must be well documented and, as in all cases, adequately described in the appropriate schedule, including a separate schedule of sensitive material. It is then a matter of scrutinising it to identify which material is relevant, and therefore subject to disclosure or alternatively to possible claims of public interest immunity. The disclosure officer is therefore a key individual who will be carefully selected and must have been fully trained. The disclosure officer can also seek legal advice (including from the LOD if necessary) on complex disclosure issues.

Compensation Claims and Civil Litigation

A proportion of complainants in criminal prosecutions of this nature applies for compensation from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board and / or sues for damages in the civil courts. In these cases the Police will have to enter into correspondence with CICB and / or solicitors. Statements and previous convictions of complainants are the documents most often required by solicitors. Statements will only be released at the conclusion of all criminal proceedings, but consideration should be given to the time limits which exist for the submission of civil claims. The Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) will consider the competing needs of the individual and the investigation to ensure that applications for civil claims are not prejudiced. The release of other unused material will be considered case-by-case on the basis of a developed policy. As holders of such material, the Police must strike a balance to meet the requirements of:

  • The rules in respect of discovery in civil litigation (which are quite different from disclosure in criminal cases);
  • The complainant and their solicitor;
  • The States Departments or third sector bodies subject of the litigation;
  • The Data Protection Law.

Where there are ongoing criminal proceedings, it may be appropriate for the SIO to consult the LOD about the release of material, as there is a potential to impact upon the ongoing criminal proceedings.

Civil litigation of necessity continues after criminal procedures and may have resource implications for the investigating force for a number of years after the criminal investigation is concluded. In some cases, the defence may claim that the victims are motivated to make the allegations by potential financial reward. It is important that the strategic management group’s policy and procedures on avoiding discussion of compensation are rigorously followed from the outset of the investigation. This will ensure that officers are not open to criticism for offering the prospect of compensation as a means of securing co-operation in an investigation which in turn may damage the credibility of the witness or cast doubt on their motives. In the event that the victim or witness raises the issue with the investigating officer and asks for advice about a claim or where they can obtain information, the officer must follow the procedures set out in the investigation policy. It is important to know if the investigating officer is made aware that a potential victim or witness is claiming compensation, and for this to be recorded and revealed to the LOD to decide if it is disclosable.

Referral of Information about Alleged Abusers

It is probable that an investigation will identify individuals who are suspected abusers but against whom prosecutions are not brought. If a suspected abuser is working with children in a child care position, or in the education service, evidence and information must be shared to support disciplinary proceedings.


7. Support

Support for Victims and Witnesses

An unequivocal victim support strategy and protocol must be established at the outset of the investigation. Support will be required in pre-trial, trial and post-trial periods. Minimum periods for contact must be established. It is clear from experience in previous investigations that many victims and families feel strongly that it is important that they remain in contact with the same staff members throughout the investigative process.

Support for Victims and Witnesses during Investigation

It is recognised that recounting past abuse may be profoundly traumatic for victims. Victims must be cared for appropriately and it is important to be sensitive to their particular needs. For example, adult survivors of childhood abuse are likely to require different kinds of counselling support, and a judgement will need to be made about the most appropriate type of counselling available locally. There must be effective collaboration with Health and independent counselling agencies to ensure that referrals to appropriate counselling and health services (including mental health services) can be made.

The scale of the investigation may lead to a prolonged period between the complaint being made and its eventual conclusion. Victims and witnesses will often require a degree of support throughout this process, and there is potential for conflict between the Police investigative role and the provision of such support. Victims of rape and serious sexual offences may require long term support once the criminal justice process is over, and in these circumstances both pre and post-trial support must be carried out by an organisation other than the Police.

Particular problems may arise where witnesses are serving prisoners, and appropriate arrangements may need to be made in such cases (including keeping probation services informed). Police and social workers must make contact with the complainant at designated intervals in order to inform them of the current stage of the investigation. Regular contact also helps to ensure that, during the interim period, the whereabouts of the complainant are known. The importance of regular contact with the victim cannot be overemphasised.

The experience of previous investigations has indicated that counselling services may be placed under considerable pressure by the demands generated during the investigative process. Certain investigations will involve large numbers of victims who may be identified simultaneously. In these situations, the strain placed on counselling services is most acute. This points to the necessity of involving senior managers in the resourcing and co-ordination of work from the outset and then keeping them adequately informed throughout the process.

In large-scale complex child abuse inquiries, there may be merit in setting up dedicated helplines to be available to inquiry subjects, their families and members of the public.

Support for Victims and Witnesses at Court

Police Officers may be available at court to provide support to witnesses in accordance with the established operational policy, which must take account of the potential for identified Police officers to be called as witnesses.

Occasionally in those cases where the Police have been providing long-term support (e.g. as family liaison officers) the defence may object to continued support being given to a witness by specific Police officers

Witnesses must be kept apart, and in some cases Police officers and victims may also need to be kept apart, to avoid allegations of collusion.

Support for witnesses must be guided by the needs of the witness. The expertise of experienced Victim Support volunteers, including those from the Court Witness Service, must be considered in addition to other agencies which may be better able to support particular witnesses (e.g. those with learning difficulties or disability).

It is essential to consider the effect which the provision of counselling and other therapeutic services to victims and witnesses may have on the judicial process. For this reason, it is important that the Police and the LOD are made aware that therapeutic support is proposed, is being undertaken, or has been undertaken.

However, the decision about whether, and if so in what form, therapeutic support should take place before a criminal trial is not a decision for the Police or the LOD, it is for those responsible for the welfare of the child, in consultation with the child’s carers and, where appropriate, with the child. Where therapeutic support does take place, it is important that a record of the therapy is maintained so that it can, if appropriate, be made available in the judicial process. In all circumstances, the welfare of the child is the paramount consideration.

Whenever possible, the Court Witness Service should be present in court when each complainant / witness is to give evidence. They should leave the court with the witness after evidence has been given and should then determine with the witness what immediate support they require. The immediate support is to be provided by the Court Witness Service member or the linked Police officer individually or jointly, or by a counsellor - whichever the witness is most comfortable with.

Victim Aftercare

When the case is concluded, the Police should gradually withdraw from regular contact with victims. It is impractical, and often unnecessary, to maintain the levels of contact required before a trial. Nevertheless, it is recognised that the trial process can be as traumatic to a complainant as the initial making of their complaint. Social work staff may need to remain in contact for a longer period and gradually devolve any long-term support or counselling needs to appropriate bodies.

Staff Support

Support for members of the investigative team is the responsibility of the strategic management group. Clear arrangements must be in place from the outset for both the seconded staff and linked management. These must include debriefing for all staff on the operation.

Operational staff must never be in a position where they are investigating colleagues and support must be considered for colleagues of staff who are being investigated.

Particular caution will need to be exercised in approaching individuals who are alleged to have been perpetrators. Visits must not be made alone and protocols for staff safety and handling violence must be agreed and observed.


8. Media Handling

No agency should underestimate the level of media interest in complex abuse investigations. The main task of handling the media will be assigned to a senior manager in each agency who is in close contact with the detail of the investigation. The Senior Investigating Officer will have an operational media strategy in place from the commencement of the investigation. It is vital that all statements to the media are cleared, via the Senior Investigating Officer, at the level of the strategic management group in order that consistency is maintained throughout and all agencies are aware of what is being released into the public domain. Staff will have available to them a clear line of referral for media inquiries in order to ensure that statements are only issued by designated spokespeople. Individual agencies must not express independent views as to the conduct of the investigation.

There are many legal restrictions governing what might be said to the media during the course of criminal and / or care proceedings, including any injunctions that might be in force. It is therefore essential that consideration is given to obtaining legal advice before any information is released to the media. The investigation team must be aware of the potential dangers of uncontrolled or inappropriate media reporting on future criminal proceedings at the investigation stage. Many sensitive cases, which have attracted significant media attention at the investigative stage, are subsequently the subject of defence submissions on abuse of process and the inability of the defendant to have a fair trial because of the level and nature of media reporting.

It is essential that victims and their families are protected from the potential trauma that may be associated with media interest in their cases. All press releases must avoid identifying victims so that they may be shielded from media attention unless and until they need to attend court.

The Senior Investigating Officer must be made aware of all pre-sentence communications to ensure that the integrity of the prosecution is maintained.


9. Closure and Review of Investigation

Exit Strategy

When closing a case, the following tasks should be completed as appropriate:

  • Obtain final list of indictments;
  • Inform all complainants / witnesses of the result of the case;
  • Inform all relevant agencies of the result of the case;
  • Agree procedure for dealing with victims who identify themselves at a later date and / or victims who remember things after the event;
  • Consider the need to offer continuing support to child victims and their families who have been in contact with the investigation;
  • Consider the need to maintain contact with witnesses, giving particular consideration to child witnesses who have given evidence in court proceedings, and ensure provision of counselling where appropriate.

Cases where the alleged perpetrator cannot be traced will only be closed on the authority of the Senior Investigating Officer. The same authority is required for the disposal of cases where the alleged perpetrator has been traced but the LOD has decided not to proceed on the grounds of insufficient evidence or public interest.

All agencies must review the investigation once it is completed. The purpose of such a review is to highlight any policies, procedures or discipline processes which need changing for the various agencies. It is good practice to conclude all major investigations with an overview report highlighting the prime activities and findings of the inquiry with recommendations for future inter-agency learning. This may lead to both inter-agency and individual agency action plans.

Amendments to this Chapter

In March 2017, this chapter was reviewed and updated.

End.