Allegations of sexual abuse involving a number of children and a number of adults, who may or may not be of the same family, are complex and may involve the use of the internet. The families may live in areas covered by different local authorities or in different parts of the country.
Some of these cases will involve organised abuse such as child pornography and recruitment of children for prostitution. Such cases should be considered under the present categories of abuse.
Communication must take place between heads of service and senior management of the police and agreement reached on who should have overall responsibility for the co-ordination of the investigation. This person should co-ordinate the activities of staff and relate to the appropriate directors of all relevant authorities. Initial referral discussions and planning meetings should address the same issues as detailed above.
Allegations should be examined with care. The initial referral discussion system allows allegations to be tested along with the opinions of other professionals and allows other courses of investigation to be agreed and pursued before any direct action is taken. It legitimises decisions to delay taking direct action on investigation of a child’s allegations or allegations about the child until an objective assessment is made of the situation. Such an assessment should always precede action to remove a child from the family home except in situations of extreme urgency where the child’s health and safety may be at risk. The aim is to ensure that correct decisions are being taken which avoid premature removal of the child, which could jeopardise the success of subsequent measures to protect the child. We must ensure proper planning for the removal and immediate care of the child when this is decided.