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4.3 Safeguarding Children and Young People Involved in Organised or Multiple Abuse, and other Complex Investigations

Contents

1. Introduction
2. Definition of Complex Abuse
3. Factors Involved in Complex Abuse
4. Principles in Investigating Complex Abuse
5. Referring Concerns about Complex Abuse
6. Relationships between the Police, LA Children’s Social Care and the Crown Prosecution Service
7. Relationship with Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board
8. Relationship with Voluntary Sector Agencies
9. Setting up an Investigation
  9.1 Initial Strategy Meeting / Discussion
  9.2 Professionals who Need to be Informed
  9.3 The Strategic Management Group (SMG)
  9.4 Tasks and Functions of the Strategic Management Group
  9.5 Managing Risk to Children and Young People
  9.6 Future Meetings
  9.7 The Operational Management Group (OMG)
  9.8 The Joint Investigation Team (JIT)
  9.9 Joint Investigation Team Responsibilities
10. Crossing Geographical and Operational Boundaries
11. Access to Records
12. Information Sharing
  12.1 Confidentiality when Exchanging Information
  12.2 Access by the Police to LA Children’s Social Care Files
  12.3 Information Sharing between Health, the Police and Local Authorities
  12.4 Disclosure of Information to Third Parties
  12.5 Disclosure of Unused Material to Defence
13. Management of Alleged Perpetrators
  13.1 Risk Assessment of Alleged Perpetrators
  13.2 Sharing Information about Alleged Abusers
14. Support
  14.1 Support for Victims and Witnesses
  14.2 Support for Victims and Witnesses During Investigation
  14.3 Support for Victims and Witnesses at Court
  14.4 Victim Aftercare
  14.5 Staff Support
15. Dealing with the Media
16. Closure and Review of Investigation
  16.1 Exit Strategy
  16.2 Records to be Maintained and File Storage


1. Introduction

Like other types of child abuse, organised or multiple abuse is extremely traumatic for the children and young people involved. Likewise it is vital that trained and experienced specialist staff are involved, in the investigation and support of the victims. But the investigation of organised or multiple abuse is usually far more complicated, due to the number of people and places involved, the time period over which the abuse has often taken place, and the number of agencies involved, often in different geographical locations and crossing organisational boundaries.

This protocol, therefore, provides guidance for staff working in Rotherham agencies about the investigation of organised / multiple abuse, and procedural information about what action they should take if they suspect such abuse.

It should be remembered that Adults at Risk may also be victims of organised / multiple abuse, along with children and young people. In such cases advice should be sought from Rotherham Safeguarding Adults Team (01709 822330, Out of Hours: 01709 364689).

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure as some of the people involved may be working in some capacity, paid or unpaid with children and/or young people.


2. Definition of Complex Abuse

For the purposes of this protocol, complex abuse is defined as organised or multiple abuse, involving one or more abusers and a number of children / young people. It is multiple abuse if there are more than two abusers and / or victims.

The abuser/s may be related to the victims, or they may come from outside of the family. Abusers may act together in order to harm children / young people, may be within a network of other abusers, or they may operate alone. Complex abuse may take place within an institutional setting, such as children’s residential home, day care or a school. The abuser/s may be in a position of authority or trust, or be a public figure which can facilitate their ability to abuse.

Although in most cases of complex abuse the abuser(s) is an adult, it is also possible for children / young people to be the perpetrators of such harm, with or without adult abusers. However, for the purposes of this document the abusers will be referred to as adults.


3. Factors Involved in Complex Abuse

As stated above, such investigations require specialist skills from the police and social work staff who become involved. Investigations may be long and detailed due to the numbers of people involved, over significant periods of time. The complexity is heightened where, as in historical cases, the alleged victims are no longer living in the situations where the incidents occurred or where the alleged perpetrators are also no longer linked to the setting or their previous employment. Complex abuse may take place across geographical and operational boundaries. This may be partly due to an abuser making efforts to avoid detection. Therefore, an investigation may involve more than one local authority and police force.

Complex abuse incorporates an element of coordination by the abuser/s involved. This may include:

  • Sexual abuse / exploitation networks where adults plan and develop social contacts with children / young people for the purposes of sexual abuse;
  • Such as youth clubs;
  • Adult/s who aim to contact children / young people for abusive reasons through leisure or welfare organisations, such as sports centres;
  • The production and / or distribution of child abuse images;
  • Adults seeking to contact children / young people via the Internet, mobile phones or games consoles;
  • Concerted efforts to aid or conceal the abuse of children / young people;
  • A complex family - where one or more adults within an extended family network abuse one or more children within the same extended family.


4. Principles in Investigating Complex Abuse

Each complex abuse investigation necessitates comprehensive planning, good inter-agency working, and attention to the welfare needs of the children / young people who have been harmed, and any other child / young person who may be at risk.

The agencies involved in such an investigation should be committed to working together, to ensure that relevant information is shared and that appropriate action is taken to minimise the risk posed by alleged offenders to children / young people.

The protection of children / young people at risk of harm remains paramount throughout the investigation. However, it should be remembered that sharing of information and issues of confidentiality should also be considered for the alleged offender, as it should be borne in mind that not all investigations proceed to court, or a defendant may be found not guilty, or the case does not meet the Local Authority’s balance of probability. Steps taken in relation to the alleged offender need to be proportionate to his / her working environment and / or private life.

Equalities issues should be considered and addressed accordingly throughout the investigation. This applies to both victim/s and perpetrator/s. Account should be taken of such issues of age, gender, culture,language, race, religion, gender / sexual identity, and disability. Any particular needs of victims or alleged perpetrators should be dealt with sensitively and appropriately.

Following the conclusion of the investigation, if the allegations were found to be ungrounded, or false or malicious allegations have been made, the needs of the adult should be treated appropriately and sensitively.

The Waterhouse report Lost in Care (Department of Health, 2000) emphasised a number of practice issues to be implemented by Children’s Social Care and police forces involved in major investigations. These included:

  • Security and preservation of police records of major investigations, including statements and the policy file;
  • Security and preservation of Children’s Social Care files;
  • Children’s Social Care ensuring access for the police to relevant files;
  • The police sharing information about alleged and suspected abusers following an investigation;
  • Sharing of information for criminal investigation and child protection purposes.

All agencies, including those from the voluntary and community sector, who may be asked to contribute to complex abuse investigations, need to ensure they abide by this protocol.

Registration authorities should also adhere to this protocol in cases where continuing registration of a setting may be affected by the investigation.

If professionals are the alleged perpetrators, it is essential that their Line Managers are not a part of either the Strategic Management Group (SMG) or the Investigation Team (see below). In order to avoid this, an early mapping exercise should help to identify such individuals.

Where an allegation involves a member of staff who has a role identified within these procedures, the referrals must be reported to an alternative (more senior) manager. The Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure should be consulted for further information.

Information throughout the investigation should only be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis.


5. Referring Concerns about Complex Abuse

Professionals from any agency may become concerned about organised or multiple abuse. This may be because:

  • They are working with a child or young person about whom they are concerned may be a victim of complex abuse;
  • They are working with a child, young person or adult whom they are concerned may be a perpetrator of such abuse;
  • They receive information from another source about possible complex abuse.

In any of the above circumstances, professionals should not delay in taking action to safeguard children and young people as detailed below.

Contact Rotherham Public Protection Unit, South Yorkshire Police (0114 220 2020) or the relevant Children’s Social Care locality team, contact details below.

Locality Team District Telephone
Wentworth North Wath, Swinton, Brampton, Wentworth, West Melton 01709 334 455
Wentworth Valley Maltby, Wickersley 01709 335 022
Wentworth South Rawmarsh, Thrybergh, East Herringthorpe 01709 336 220
Rotherham North Wingfield, Thorpe Hesley, Greasborough 01709 336 439
Rother Valley South Anston, Wales, Kiverton, Dinnington 01709 335 055
Rother Valley West Catcliffe, Brinsworth Aston, Thurcroft 01709 335 022
Rotherham South Clifton, Arnold, Canklow Woods, Whiston 01709 334 905
Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) 01709 823 987
Rotherham Safeguarding Children Operational Unit 01709 823 914

The Out of Hours Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) should be contacted on 01709 823 987.

In an emergency - do not delay - ring 999.

For additional information about the Referral procedures see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.


6. Relationships between the Police, LA Children’s Social Care and the Crown Prosecution Service

Complex abuse investigations should be undertaken as a joint operation, involving South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and Children’s Social Care. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) should be involved from an early stage, as appropriate. A decision may be jointly taken to involve an independent child protection agency, such as NSPCC.

The CPS is independent of the police and should not be involved in operational decisions about how the investigation should be conducted. However, they can give advice about evidential or legal issues that arise during an investigation. Early involvement of the CPS can, therefore, help inform decisions made by the investigation team. It is important that there is ongoing consultation and interaction between these agencies throughout the investigation and any resulting criminal trial.

Investigation teams should have visible support and regular liaison from senior officers and staff in SYP and Children’s Social Care, and other agencies as appropriate throughout the inquiry. It is for each agency to determine who this should be. They must be empowered with full decision-making authority (for example, in the allocation of resources).


7. Relationship with Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board

An investigation of complex abuse will be carried out under the auspices of the RLSCB. The Strategic Management Group (see Section 9.3) here should liaise regularly with an identified officer of the Board. However, RLSCB should not take any direct role in the management of the inquiry.


8. Relationship with Voluntary Sector Agencies

When appropriate, Senior Managers from voluntary sector agencies may be involved in the Strategic Management Group (see Section 9.3). Otherwise liaison should be maintained through senior and frontline Children’s Social Care staff. Advice may also be sought on specific issues (for example, the availability of local counselling or support services). Protocols about access to voluntary agency files should be agreed.


9. Setting up an Investigation

All instances of organised or multiple abuse that will involve a complex child abuse investigation should be carried out in accordance with the Home Office and Department of Health Guidance, Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-Agency Issues (May 2002).

9.1 Initial Strategy Meeting / Discussion

When a professional becomes concerned that a case may be complex, they must inform Children’s Social Care Senior Managers and the (South Yorkshire Police) Public Protection Unit Detective Inspector for Rotherham (0114 220 2020) immediately.

A Strategy Meeting / Discussion must be held within the working day that the referral is received. It should:

  • Assess the information that is known;
  • Agree what further information is needed at this stage;
  • Arrange for the gathering of all relevant information, and agree who will be responsible;
  • Decide whether, and if so to what extent, organised / multiple abuse has been uncovered;
  • Agree who should be involved in undertaking an initial mapping exercise to determine the scale of the investigation, and possible victims and perpetrators;
  • Agree an outline plan for the investigation to be presented to the SMG, including resource implications;
  • Consider any immediate action that is required to protect children and young people at risk of harm, and organise its implementation.

The Strategy Meeting / Discussion may include the referrer if appropriate, a legal adviser and any other relevant professionals.

Having considered and discussed the information, if the Strategy Meeting / Discussion agree that there is reasonable cause to suspect complex abuse, the child protection manager should inform the Strategic Director of CYPS and the Detective Inspector should inform the relevant Assistant Chief Constable.

9.2 Professionals who Need to be Informed

The Strategic Director of Children’s Social Care must inform the RLSCB Chair, Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) Chief Executive, RMBC Communications Team manager, and Senior Managers of relevant agencies (for example, nominated safeguarding children advisers).

9.3 The Strategic Management Group (SMG)

The Strategic Director of Children’s Social Care and the Rotherham District Commander for South Yorkshire Police will determine their representative on the SMG.

A SMG meeting, chaired by the police or Children’s Social Care depending on the circumstances, must be convened within five working days of receipt of the referral.

The SMG should 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 SMG will have the following core membership that should remain constant throughout the investigation:

  • Strategic Director of Children’s Social Care;
  • Rotherham District Commander, SYP;
  • Police Senior Investigating Officer;
  • Children’s Social Care Lead Manager;
  • RMBC Legal advisor;
  • Press Officer(s);
  • Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group representative;
  • Representatives from agencies as appropriate for example, Rotherham District General Hospital, the National Probation Service, the Prison Service, school, CPS, Probation, voluntary sector organisations.

For all SMG meetings, minutes must be prepared fully, detailing all policy decisions and actions. All minutes must be classified restricted and all copies should be individually numbered. Copying of the minutes should only be allowed on the express authority of the SMG Chair.

It is most important to involve other agencies at this early stage so that the SMG can identify any requirement for support services. If so, the SMG should also arrange such provision and ensure allocate of resources. These may include community and specialist health services, dependent on the nature of the investigation.

9.4 Tasks and Functions of the Strategic Management Group

The tasks and function of the SMG may vary from case to case but will normally include the following:

  1. Establish the terms of reference for the investigation;
  2. Take ownership of the strategic leadership of the investigation;
  3. Complete a early mapping exercise to determine the scale of the investigation and ensure that where professionals are implicated as suspected perpetrators, that their Line Managers are not included in the SMG or the Joint Investigation Team;
  4. To agree the staffing of the investigation and membership of the Operational Management Group;
  5. Where necessary, to agree protocols:
    • To govern the future handling of the investigation: for example on media handling and victim / witness support;
    • For the sharing of information: to ensure that the investigation 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 the obtaining of records from any outside organisations;
    • To ensure staff safety and support in carrying out the investigation.
  6. To ensure that any current risks to children / young people that emerge during the course of the investigation are acted upon;
  7. To ensure that there are safeguards in place to guarantee the integrity of the investigation, taking into account the need to exercise particular care to guard against the risk of eliciting false allegations against innocent people;
  8. To ensure that all agencies work together effectively;
  9. To ensure that all agencies commit sufficient resources, including business support and administrative back-up, to ensure that the investigation is thorough and that prompt and appropriate support is offered to victims and their families;
  10. To ensure that wherever possible a dedicated incident room is established for the investigation team;
  11. To secure and resource access to expert legal advice;
  12. To establish a policy on how agencies deal with questions of potential financial compensation for victims. Practical guidance should be given to interviewing officers in line with this policy;
  13. To monitor and review procedures used for gathering and recording evidence, to ensure that they are tightly controlled and supervised;
  14. To ensure that appropriate recording of material obtained during the course of the investigation, and also the safe and secure storage of records, through the early appointment of a disclosure officer;
  15. To agree a strategy to ensure that contact with the media is properly managed and coordinated using a nominated press officer;
  16. To ensure 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;
  17. To arrange appropriate accommodation facilities and trained interviewers for all witnesses, and to give special attention to the needs of witnesses who are children, young people or Adults at Risk and any who may be subject to intimidation;
  18. To ensure that the guidance Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses and Using Special Measures, Crown Justice System is followed;
  19. To ensure that where children or young people have been removed from their families, an appropriate placement is found for them and that their needs are fully assessed according to the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families, and that appropriate professional medical, physical and emotional support is being provided;
  20. If the alleged abuse occurs in a residential setting, to ensure that the child / young person is safeguarded, that other children who may be at risk are safeguarded and, if necessary, that suitable accommodation is provided;
  21. To consider the need for a review of the case as a means of identifying and acting on lessons learned through the serious case review process;
  22. To ensure that suitable arrangements are made for the victims and their families during the course of criminal proceedings including access to the Court Witness Service and Victim Support;
  23. To consider the impact of stress on frontline workers from any agency, and ensure access to appropriate stress management resources;
  24. To keep establishments subject to investigation fully informed of progress, as well as the inspection and regulation sections;
  25. To establish a clear policy, consistent for each suspect, in respect of what should be the subject of a prosecution. Decisions on whether or not to prosecute should rest firstly with the Senior Investigating Officer, who may make use of early advice from the CPS;
  26. Ensure that relevant bodies are kept fully informed of the progress of the investigation, such as Ofsted;
  27. To agree a schedule of dates for future meetings.

9.5 Managing Risk to Children and Young People

The SMG has a duty to ensure that any current risks to children / young people that emerge during the course of the investigation are acted upon immediately. The SMG should develop a risk management protocol by regularly reviewing risk indicators in relation to subject children / young people (see Appendix C of Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-agency Issues (Department of Health / Home Office, 2002). The protocol should detail a robust risk management process to be used throughout the investigation. It should also establish effective procedures for communication between the investigation team and Children’s Social Care.

9.6 Future Meetings

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

  • Monitor the progress, quality and integrity of the investigation;
  • Review actual or potential risks to children / young people by the alleged abuser/s 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.

The SMG must remain in existence at least until the court or the CPS has made a decision about the alleged perpetrators.

The SMG must report in writing to RLSCB, which must consider at the first available opportunity whether a serious case review should be initiated.

9.7 The Operational Management Group (OMG)

An Operational Management Group should be set up under the SMG. Meetings of this group should also be fully minuted. The OMG should be chaired by the Senior Investigating Officer. Membership should include representatives from Children’s Social Care, school/s, health, and RMBC legal advisors.

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

  1. To provide a forum where professionals can meet, exchange information and agree tactics on a daily basis to progress the investigation;
  2. To ensure a consistent strategy for interviewing victims within and outside if in different local authority areas;
  3. To keep the SMG informed of any resource shortages;
  4. To ensure a consistent and appropriate approach to practical and emotional support for victims;
  5. To co-ordinate inter-agency response to families and provide consistent information;
  6. To ensure support for all staff working on the investigation and ensure welfare concerns are addressed;
  7. To ensure that issues which need to be shared with agencies, not represented on the SMG or OMG, are communicated to those agencies;
  8. To ensure that all staff involved in the investigation are clear about the parameters of shared information, data protection and confidentiality between agencies;
  9. To ensure that relevant intelligence has passed between agencies and to the SYP Major Incident Room and Force Intelligence Bureau as appropriate;
  10. Convening interagency meetings and / or child protection conferences as appropriate;
  11. Co-ordination and timing of therapeutic services;
  12. Regularly updating the SMG on the progress made and recommending when to close the investigation;
  13. Consideration of arrangements for court hearings and support to children and families;
  14. Recommendations as to the placement of children and any contact involving children and their siblings, relatives or other adults.

9.8 The Joint Investigation Team (JIT)

The members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) will be selected by the SMG from within and outside their organisations. It is vital that all investigators are and can be seen to be independent from those parties who are subject to the investigation. The members of the JIT should possess experience of investigating allegations of abuse, compiling profiles and understanding methods of abusers, child protection processes, legal processes, children’s welfare, disciplinary proceedings and working with child victims, adult survivors and their families.

Where victims or witnesses are identified as having special needs, such as learning impairments or communication difficulties, specialist staff will be required.

9.9 Joint Investigation Team Responsibilities

The JIT (supervised by the OMG) is responsible for:

  • Planning the overall investigation, involving record checking, evidence gathering, planning and undertaking a series of interrelated interviews and surveillance if required;
  • Considering the implications of crossing geographical boundaries;
  • 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.


10. Crossing Geographical and Operational Boundaries

Either from the beginning, or during the investigation, it may emerge that there are suspected or potential victims or abusers in more that one geographical area.

If the abuse allegedly took place in Rotherham, or the alleged perpetrators were said to operate in Rotherham, it will be the responsibility of South Yorkshire Police to manage the investigation.

If it is recognised that there are suspected or potential victims / abusers in other areas, a joint approach should be made by the SMG to the appropriate LA Children’s Social Care and police team.

The investigation team should conduct the investigation on behalf of the other geographical areas. A Senior Manager from each LA area or police force should join the SMG, and agree resource contributions as necessary.

If the number of victims outside of the Rotherham area increases to the extent that the investigation team cannot respond, then a joint investigative team in the new geographical area should be established.

In such a case it is essential that there is a joint SMG to provide overall planning. If it is necessary to have more than one joint investigative team, there must be close working including processes for liaison and full information sharing.


11. Access to Records

Tracing, use, management and disclosure of relevant documentary information held by agencies is a challenging task in complex abuse investigations. This relates to members of staff / volunteers and former or current service users. Firstly, the investigative team needs to decide what information is required and where it is likely to be, before taking immediate steps to secure it. They also need to access a variety of records during the investigative process. Clear protocols and procedures for investigative access to this material will need to be established and enforced. The process of collating all relevant service dates, records of residents and members of staff for each establishment can be extremely difficult in practice.


12. Information Sharing

12.1 Confidentiality when Exchanging Information

Child abuse investigations are dependent on highly confidential and often sensitive information being made available to investigators. Therefore the SMG has a key role in ensuring the effective use of information sharing protocols by agencies to facilitate the inquiry. All members of the investigation team should be understand and adhere to it.

It is vital to clearly establish the rules governing disclosure of information to members of the investigation team. Staff and their supervisors who require access to the information should be regarded as forming a circle of confidentiality.

It should be remembered that the Data Protection Act 1998 requires that personal information is obtained and processed fairly and lawfully, is only disclosed in appropriate circumstances, is accurate, relevant, not held longer than necessary, and is kept securely. The Act allows for disclosure without the consent of the subject in certain conditions, including for the prevention and detection of crime, or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders, and where failure to disclose would be likely to prejudice those objectives in a particular case.

12.2 Access by the Police to LA Children’s Social Care Files

Children’s Social Care files frequently contain information or evidence relevant to an investigation. It is a matter for the Senior Investigating Officer (SIO) from SYP, on a case-by-case basis, to decide what access to which files is necessary, to ensure a thorough investigation.

If files are disclosed to SYP, Children’s Social Care should be aware that the prosecution may be required to disclose these to the defence in the event of a criminal prosecution. In the case of sensitive material, however, it is the responsibility of 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.

12.3 Information Sharing between Health, the Police and Local Authorities

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 should be documented, separately by all professionals involved 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.

Whilst it is not entirely clear under law whether or not a common law duty of confidence extends to the deceased, the Department of Health and professional bodies responsible for setting ethical standards for health professionals accept that this is the case.

The General Medical Council (GMC) has produced guidance entitled Confidentiality: Protecting and Providing Information (2004), which provides further information for doctors.

Any information sharing about living, identifiable individuals between the NHS, the police and local authorities must then be carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.

12.4 Disclosure of Information to Third Parties

In the course of an investigation, information about alleged perpetrators may sometimes need to be made available to individuals who are not directly involved but are part of a recognised statutory agency. Such information should be shared, as appropriate, to prevent a risk of further offending.

12.5 Disclosure of Unused Material to Defence

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 should be well documented and, as in all cases, adequately described in the appropriate schedule, including a separate schedule of sensitive material. It is necessary to identify which material is relevant, and therefore subject to disclosure or alternatively to possible claims of public interest immunity. The disclosure officer is a key individual who should be carefully selected and should be fully trained. They can also seek legal advice (including from the CPS Complex Case Unit if necessary) on disclosure issues.


13. Management of Alleged Perpetrators

13.1 Risk Assessment of Alleged Perpetrators

Whilst it is essential that there is an exchange of information in order to manage risk to the public, it is also important to ensure the maximum confidentiality of such exchanges. Only relevant information should be shared in relation to alleged perpetrators and victims.

South Yorkshire Police should share information relating to the alleged offence and any other relevant information, including previous or pending offences. Children’s Social Care should 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 should also be shared, for example children or young people currently living with an alleged perpetrator or to whom an alleged perpetrator has unsupervised access.

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. It is not appropriate for a risk assessment to be carried out by officers engaged in the investigation. SMG should agree who should carry out the risk assessment, receive the report of the assessment findings, and act on its recommendations.

The Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) places a statutory duty on the police and probation services to manage risk for identified groups of perpetrators. Therefore South Yorkshire Police and the National Probation Service in Rotherham should follow the agreed procedures for assessing risk and for information sharing. It is important that in cases where an alleged perpetrator is identified, steps are taken for notification to and liaison with the MAPPA Chair.

13.2 Sharing Information about Alleged Abusers

The Waterhouse Inquiry noted the importance of adequate sharing of information about suspected abusers. An investigation may identify individuals who are suspected abusers, but against whom prosecutions are not brought. If a suspected abuser is working with, or has access to children or young people, it is essential that due consideration is given to releasing evidence and information to support disciplinary proceedings. The SMG should agree the process for referral of information about the suspected abuser/s to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), as part of the Vetting and Barring process. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) website has information about the Duty to Refer,the Referral process and the forms to be used to make a referral.

Any actions or non-actions, and the reasons for taking them, should be recorded by the individual members of staff in the relevant agencies, as well as the SMG.

If the NSPCC are not involved in the investigation, consideration may be given to asking the NSPCC Independent Inquiry and Assessment Service (IEAS) to undertake an independent risk assessment.


14. Support

14.1 Support for Victims and Witnesses

A victim support strategy and protocol should be agreed by SMG from the outset. Support will be required in pre-trial, trial and post-trial periods. Minimum periods for contact between staff and victims should be established. Continuity of personnel is vital to the victims and their families.

14.2 Support for Victims and Witnesses During Investigation

Recounting past abuse may be profoundly traumatic for victims. Therefore they must be cared for appropriately, and professionals should be sensitive to their individual needs. If counselling is required, consideration should be given to the most appropriate type of counselling available and referrals made, as appropriate.

The scale of the investigation often leads to a considerable time 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. Clear protocols should be drawn up prior to the commencement of therapy, so as not to jeopardise the ongoing investigation or criminal trial. However, the needs of the victim are paramount. For further information refer to Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial: Practice Guidance (CPS).

Police and social workers should agree regular contact with the complainant in order to inform them of the progress of the investigation. The Victim’s Charter sets out the stages of the case when victims, or their representatives, must be made aware of developments.

Some larger scale investigations can involve significant numbers of victims who may be identified simultaneously. In these situations, there will be significant pressure placed on local counselling services. In such cases the SMG should decide on how to resource and co-ordinate the additional work and liaise with counselling services as appropriate to agree extra allocation.

In large-scale complex child abuse inquiries, the SMG should decide if dedicated help lines should be made available to inquiry subjects, their families and members of the public.

Special arrangements may need to be made if a witness is a serving prisoner, and appropriate arrangements may need to be made in such cases. This includes keeping the allocated probation officer informed.

14.3 Support for Victims and Witnesses at Court

Police and social workers should be available at court to provide support to witnesses.

Witnesses should 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 should be guided by the needs of each individual witness. Use of the Victim Support Scheme volunteers, including those from the Witness Service, should be considered. They should also be consulted about service provision to witnesses with additional needs, for example a learning disability.

If long standing support from an organisation has to end for any reason, for example police family liaison officers, other agencies should be approached to provide this service if the witness requires ongoing support.

If the witness is assessed as in need of therapy during the investigation or during a trial, it is vital to first consider the effect that this may have on the judicial process. The CPS can offer advice on the likely effect of the therapy on the criminal process. However, the decision about whether it should be provided is for those responsible for the welfare of the child / young person, in consultation with theme and their parents / carers. It is not a decision for the police or the CPS. However, it is essential that they are kept informed about the progress of the therapy, although not the content. 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 / young person is paramount. For further information refer to Provision of Therapy for Child Witnesses Prior to a Criminal Trial: Practice Guidance (CPS). They also provide a witness pack for children and young people, including NSPCC and Barnados publications.

The allocated social worker or worker of 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 determine with them what immediate support they require, and from whom.

14.4 Victim Aftercare

It is recognised that the judicial process can be as traumatic as making the initial complaint. However, when the case is concluded, the police should gradually withdraw from regular contact with victims. Social work staff may need to remain in contact for a longer period whilst gradually transferring long-term support to appropriate agencies.

The National Probation Service (NPS) has a statutory duty to contact the victims of those offenders sentenced to 12 months or more, for a sexual or violent offence. It is the responsibility of the police to provide information to the victim about the NPS’s role and advise them that they will give their contact details to the NPS, unless they state otherwise. Within two months, the NPS should be in contact with the victim asking, among other issues, if they want information about the prison system and / or if they may wish to express a view about conditions attached to the prisoner’s release at the relevant time. It is for the victim to decide if they wish to be involved in this procedure.

14.5 Staff Support

Support for members of the investigative team is the responsibility of the SMG. Clear arrangements should be in place from the outset for all staff involved, including those from agencies not represented on the SMG and those seconded into the investigation. Support should include debriefing for all staff on the operation.

Visits to alleged perpetrators should not be made alone. Protocols for staff safety and handling violence should be agreed and observed by all.


15. Dealing with the Media

The media interest in a complex abuse investigation may be particularly challenging for the SMG. Media liaison should be assigned to a Senior Manager in each agency, who is in close contact with the investigation. The SIO should have an operational media strategy in place from the commencement of the investigation, as per SYP internal procedures.

It is vital that all statements to the media are cleared, via the SIO, with the SMG, and that consistency is maintained at all times. Statements should only be issued through the designated spokesperson. All other staff should know that they should not speak to anyone from the media, and to whom they should transfer any such enquiries. Individual agencies should not express independent views as to the conduct of the investigation. Legal advice should also be obtained before information is released to the media to avoid jeopardising a future criminal trial or care proceedings.

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 should avoid identifying victims so that they may be shielded from media attention unless and until they need to attend court. In some cases victims and families may need to consider seeking a court injunction against the media. In such cases they should consult a solicitor for advice and support to proceed.

The SIO should be made aware of all pre-sentence communications to ensure that the integrity of the prosecution.


16. Closure and Review of Investigation

16.1 Exit Strategy

Each agency will have its own procedure for closing a case, but the following should be overseen by the Operational Management Group:

  • Inform the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) of the final list of indictments where appropriate;
  • Inform all complainants/witnesses of the result of the case;
  • Inform all relevant agencies of the result of the case;
  • Agree a procedure for responding to any 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, how this will be achieved and by whom;
  • 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;
  • If an offender is sentenced to one year or more, provide information about the role of the NPS to victims, and provide the NPS with their details if they so consent.

In cases where the alleged perpetrator cannot be traced should only be closed on the authority of the SIO in consultation with the Senior Manager from Children’s Social Care who has been involved in the case. The SIO and Children’s Social Care Senior Manager should also agree about case disposal where the alleged perpetrator has been traced, but CPS has decided not to proceed on the grounds of insufficient evidence or that it is not in the public interest.

All agencies should review the investigation once it is completed. The review should highlight any policies, procedures or discipline processes which need changing for the various agencies. RLSCB may already have conducted a serious case review, although this may not be completed until the conclusion of court proceedings. 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.

16.2 Records to be Maintained and File Storage

The Code of Practice made under the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 sets out the minimum requirements for record retention in all criminal cases. It defines what action should be taken by the police regarding retention and disclosure of material held by third parties. A central registry should be maintained, with file storage facility for all cases that come within this guidance. The holding agency should ensure that all documents and files used and / or generated in the process of an investigation are retained securely.

It is recommended that, against the various needs of agencies, all original files be retained for a minimum period of six years from the date of the completion of the investigation (whether or not proceedings are instituted). This is in case of information contained in the files being required in subsequent criminal and / or civil proceedings, or under the Freedom of Information Act. Such material may also be relevant as supporting evidence for compensation claims to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Certain material may be relevant to subsequent investigations and / or enforcement action by a regulatory body such as the National Care Standards Commission.

End