Accusations of child abuse are taken very seriously by the police, who take a number of actions to ensure they are investigated thoroughly. The trauma of being falsely accused of child abuse is very much heightened by the process of evidence gathering, making it for anyone accused of such a serious crime to seek the best legal advice as early as possible. Understanding the process that the police follow will also make the experience less traumatic.
When an accusation of child abuse is made the police will set about gathering evidence by interviewing all parties involved in the allegations, carrying out searches, undertaking information sharing with other agencies, and requiring medical examinations. Members of the specialist child abuse investigation team then decide whether or not to prosecute the accused.
- Information Sharing
By sharing information with local authorities, schools and health services about the child in question, the police can establish what is already known about them and add relevant information to their case.
- Search and Seize
Police officers may search the child’s home or the location where the alleged offence took place, and seize anything they feel might provide evidence of the alleged abuse, such as the accused’s computer or mobile phone.
- Statements and Interviews
During the course of the investigation, the police may speak to the child in question, the accused and any potential witnesses to the offence. When interviewing the child, the police use a special room with video recording equipment and a social worker has to be present. The suspect is also interviewed at the police station after they have been made aware of their rights, which include having a solicitor present at any interviews. It is therefore best for anyone accused of abuse to seek legal advice from a trained professional before speaking to the police.
- Medical Examinations
Specialist paediatricians will carefully examine the child and make a record of their injuries. Children who are old enough to give their consent to be examined are asked to do so, whereas in the case of younger children permission will be sought from their parents or carers. In some rare cases, a social worker can request a court order to override a parental to not allow a medical examination.
The Decision To Prosecute
If the police feel there is enough evidence to prosecute someone accused of abusing a child, they will pass their paperwork to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), where the final decision on whether the accused should be taken to court will be made. The Code for Crown Prosecutors dictates that their approach must be fair, independent and objective and that it mustn’t be affected by personal views or prejudices. When deciding whether to prosecute, the CPS has to consider the likelihood of obtaining a conviction and whether it is in the public interest. The CPS looks at alternatives to prosecution and takes into account how the victim has been affected. Before the prosecution process starts, the witnesses and victim are made aware of what will be expected of them during the trial.
For the alleged perpetrator of the abuse, it will be their legal representative who will prepare them for the process and trial ahead of them. There is also a lot that the accused person and their family and friends can do to help throughout the ordeal.
At Edward Hayes LLP, we have extensive experience in handling false allegation proceedings and can provide advice and support throughout the process, as well as representing the defendant if the case goes to court.
If you have been falsely accused of abusing a child in the south east and need immediate advice call 0800 085 9684. If you are in another part of the country, call 0845 602 3043. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.