HHJ Bellamy said at paragraph 212 of his judgment about the social worker in the case:[/vc_column_text]
This is extremely concerning. If it really is part of the training of front line professionals who record children’s allegations, such training is dangerously defective and must cease immediately.[/vc_column_text]
The Cleveland and Orkneys scandals of 1987 and 1991 respectively, illustrate the consequences of pursuing allegations of sexual abuse from a starting point of truth – children sobbing in interviews, being told they would be allowed to go ‘when you tell us what daddy did to you’.[/vc_column_text]
In October 2016 Sir Richard Henriques reviewed the Metropolitan Police investigations into historical allegations of child sexual abuse against ‘persons of public prominence’ . He recommended the word ‘victim’ to describe a complainant should cease. How can any investigation that follows a commitment to ‘believe’ a ‘victim’ be fearless or impartial?
The 2015 Guidance about interviewing children is clear and sensible “If a child reports, following a conversation you have initiated or otherwise, that they are being abused and neglected, you should listen to them, take their allegation seriously, and reassure them that you will take action to keep them safe.” [/vc_column_text]
“I have in this case heard extensive evidence from those professionals to whom the children made allegations and from those professionals who subsequently assessed the children and/or investigated those allegations (I pause to note that despite the fact that the use of the term “disclosure” to describe a statement or allegation of abuse made by a child has been deprecated since the Cleveland Report due to it precluding the notion that the abuse might not have occurred (see para 12.34(1)), every professional who gave evidence in this case (except the Children’s Guardian) used the term “disclosure” to describe what the children had said to them).”[/vc_column_text]
I have often seen lengthy ABE interviews of small children who are required to remember what they told mummy or the social worker some time before. This is a clear breach of the ABE guidelines and requirement for free narrative recall. The ABE interview is not the place to get the child to repeat ‘the truth’ on film.
The saddest part of one ABE interview I have seen was to witness the child sternly told that she ‘must not lie’ when the child gave an account that was clearly part of some imaginative play. It was not a ‘lie’ – she was doing what children delight in doing; playing by making up stories.[/vc_column_text]
All of us involved in cases involving allegations of child abuse will have similar horror stories to tell of the botched ABE interview, or the assumptions that were made at the very outset of investigations that destroyed any chance of obtaining secure evidence.
If your investigator can ‘believe’ you – they can also ‘disbelieve’ you. The dangers are apparent. Children rely on us to keep them safe. And to be kept safe they need to be listened to, taken seriously and given the gift of efficient and effective investigation into the behaviour of adults who have hurt them.[/vc_column_text]