SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis chapter provides a procedure for agencies about the investigation of complex and organised abuse and information about what action they should take if they suspect such abuse. All agencies, including those from the voluntary and community sector, who may be asked to contribute to complex abuse investigations, need to ensure that they follow this procedure. Registration authorities should also adhere to this procedure in cases where continuing registration of a setting may be affected by the investigation.
Complex and organised abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of related or non-related abused children. The adults concerned may be acting in concert to abuse children, sometimes acting in isolation or may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.
Such abuse can occur both as part of a network of abuse across a family or community and within institutions such as residential settings, boarding schools, in day care and in other provisions such as youth services, sports clubs, faith groups and voluntary groups. There will also be cases of children being abused via the use of electronic devices, such as mobile phones, computers, games consoles etcetera which all access the Internet.
Although in most cases of complex and organised 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.
Each investigation of complex and organised abuse will be different, according to the characteristics of each situation and the scale and complexity of the investigation. But all will require thorough planning, collaborative inter-agency working and attention to the needs of the child victim/s involved.
The investigation of complex abuse requires specialist skills and dedicated resources from both police and social work staff which usually involves the formation of dedicated teams of professionals and will need consideration of the needs for victims for therapeutic services. The consequent legal proceedings may add to the timescales of such investigations.
Some investigations become extremely complex because of the number of places and people involved, and the timescale over which abuse is alleged to have occurred. In these circumstances a specialist Investigation Management Group (see Section 7, The Investigation Management Group), as well as a Strategic Management Group (see Section 6, The Strategic Management Group) may be set up.
The complexity is heightened where, as in historical cases, the alleged victims are no longer living in the setting where the incidents occurred or where the alleged perpetrators are also no longer linked to the setting or employment role. These will all need to be taken into consideration when working with a child.
A senior Police Officer may convene a Gold Command meeting if a particular investigation merits senior oversight from a police perspective. Police may invite senior members of staff from all agencies, so that information can be shared and strategy agreed. It is not the remit of the Gold Command meeting to direct investigations. These meetings are minuted and those minutes may be revealed to the prosecution, should criminal proceedings be undertaken.
The confidentiality of the information relevant to any Section 47 Enquiry and criminal investigation must be strictly maintained by those involved and must not be disclosed to others, including others within the agency, unless absolutely necessary.
The single and most important consideration is the safety and well-being of the child or children.
In reconciling the difference between the standard of evidence required for child protection purposes and the standard required for criminal proceedings, emphasis must be given to the protection of the children as the prime consideration.
The investigation and enquiries must also address the racial, religious, cultural, language, sexual orientation and gender needs of the child, together with any special needs of the child arising from illness or disability.
A victim support strategy and protocol should be established at the outset. Support will be required in pre-trial, trial and post-trial periods if the case/s proceed to court. Minimum periods for contact should be established. It is clear from experience in research about complex investigations that many victims and families feel strongly that it is important that they remain in contact with the same staff throughout the investigative process.
When receiving information or a referral, which may indicate organised or multiple abuse, the recipient should immediately refer the matter to the Police and a manager in Children's Social Care.
If there is any suspicion that any managers currently employed by a social care agency are implicated or a member of the police, the matter should be referred to the Chair of local Safeguarding Children Partnership or in their absence, the Vice-Chair and a Senior Officer within the Police.Where there are allegations against individuals working with children, these should be reported to the senior manager identified in the agency's Allegations Against Staff procedure, unless that person is the subject of the allegation in which case it should be reported to a designated alternative. The senior manager should ensure that any allegations are reported to the Local Authority Designated Officer. See Allegations Against Staff or Volunteers who Work with Children Procedure.
A Strategy Meeting should be arranged to take place as a matter of urgency to assess the need for future action to be taken and, in particular, whether a criminal investigation should take place.
The Strategy Meeting, chaired by a senior manager of Children's Social Care Services, must take place as soon as possible and no later than five working days of the receipt of the referral and be formally recorded.
In Sunderland, South Tyneside and Gateshead the Safeguarding Children Partnership Business Manager must be informed and will inform the Independent Chair of the the LSCP.The nominated senior staff of Children's Social Care Services and the Police should attend the meeting. The meeting will involve senior staff from Health, Education and other agencies as required and, where necessary, must ensure coordination across local authority boundaries.
The Strategy discussion/meeting must carefully note:
A strategic decision will need to be made by senior managers from the involved agencies as to whether the social work input into the enquiries/investigation can be managed in the conventional way or whether a specialist approach is required for example from a dedicated team outside the service e.g. the NSPCC.
This will usually depend on the number, geographical spread and age range of potential interviewees, as well as whether those implicated are foster carers or employees of any member agency.
Where the Strategy Discussion confirms that the investigation will relate to complex and organised abuse, it will appoint a multi-agency Strategic Management Group (see Section 6, The Strategic Management Group) to oversee the process.
Where a member of staff of any agency is implicated in the investigation, his or her line manager must not be a member of the Strategic Management Group.
The Strategic Management Group will be chaired by a senior officer in Children's Social Care Services and will:
In cases of considerable complexity and scale, an Investigation Management Group will be appointed.
Membership of this group should include representatives from Children's Social Care Services, the Police, designated health professionals and the local authorities Legal Services, with other agencies being invited to participate as appropriate.
The tasks and functions of the Group will be subject to the terms of reference agreed by the Strategic Management Group (SMG), and will include the following:
The Waterhouse Inquiry report has noted the importance of adequate referral of information about suspected 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 should be shared to support disciplinary proceedings and to enable, where appropriate, the referral of suspected abusers to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) and the relevant regulatory bodies.
At the conclusion of the enquiry/investigation, the Strategic Management Group must evaluate the investigation, identify the lessons learned and prepare an Overview Report with recommendations and an Action plan for the Safeguarding Children Partnership, highlighting any practices, procedures or policies which may need further attention and require either inter-agency or individual agency action plans.
Only valid for 48hrs