The authors of the report 'Child Abuse: Training Investigating Officers' visited 12 forces across the country and looked at their training arrangements. They also held a series of focus groups with officers where training issues were explored in more depth.
The main findings are:
- There is wide variation in the length, structure and content of training for child abuse investigative officers across police forces;
- There was wide support for a national training curriculum - 84 percent of training investigative officers who attended a national conference endorsed the idea. They felt it would improve consistency and quality of training; make the transfer of staff between forces easier and enhance the status of trained officers among colleagues and in the witness box. The report outlines a suggested core curriculum.
The report encourages police forces to:
- consider adopting the core elements of the suggested national curriculum;
- include more practice in interviewing children as part of their training programmes;
- update staff regularly on new developments in their field of work;
- encourage 'working together' - including close contact with social services and child protection units in other forces to share best practice.
Home office minister, Paul Boateng welcomed the report:
'Officers who interview abused children are under a huge amount of pressure and we recognise the crucial part they play in securing convictions. They are entitled to the support and co-operation of all who care about children. Developing and improving their training can only benefit the child and lead to a better quality of evidence which should mean more prosecutions.
'Improving evidence gathering in child abuse cases echoes the government's pledge to offer more protection to child witnesses under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill which we published last week.
'A national curriculum is clearly an idea which is supported by professionals within the field and with good reason. I welcome setting a national standard to improve upon and help develop what is a very sensitive and highly valued part of police work.'
- Copies of the report are available by faxing 0171 273 4001
- The Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Bill was published on 3 December 1998.