Joint child protection investigation - Achieving Best Evidence (ABE)

The investigation of child abuse is a crucial stage in protecting children. While other agencies will be involved in aspects of the investigation, the Police and Health and Social Care Service are primarily responsible.

Practitioners involved in a joint child protection investigation must be trained in accordance with the best practice detailed in "Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance for Vulnerable or Intimated Witnesses including Children (2001)", and be occupationally competent.

While the Police are responsible for any criminal investigation and the presentation of evidence to the prosecution, including the investigative interview, the decision on the lead interviewer will be carefully considered in respect of investigative ability, ie: understanding of the criminal law requirements and rapport with the child.

The decision whether or not to undertake an ABE interview will normally be made at a strategy meeting. The primary purpose of any video recorded interview is to:

·        Gather evidence for use in the investigation and criminal proceedings

·        To  be the evidence in chief of the witness

In addition, any information gained during interview may also be used to inform enquiries regarding significant harm and any subsequent actions to safeguard and promote the child's welfare and in some cases, the welfare of other children. The information gained may also be used to inform civil or disciplinary proceedings subject to the circumstances of the case.

S.40 of the Criminal Justice (Sex Offenders & Miscellaneous Provisions) (Bailiwick of Guernsey) Law 2013, empowers the court to direct that a video interview of a specified witness, be admitted as the evidence in chief of that witness. Currently, this is limited to offences of a sexual nature. In all other cases of neglect, physical or emotional concern, evidence will need to be placed before the Court as a written statement. As a consequence, there may be occasions where the taking of a written statement will be assessed as the most appropriate course of action, in terms of the investigation and the needs of the child or young person. This decision and the rationale for it should be discussed between the lead agencies and documented.

Planning the interview with the child must be undertaken following a holistic assessment of the child's needs, including the following main principles:

·        All interviews will be undertaken in accordance with the guidance contained in the ABE protocol.

·        The interview will normally be recorded on DVD or as a written statement, having regard to the age and understanding of the child

·        The interview plan will take into account any special  needs of the child (Box 2.7 of ABE Guidance)

At the conclusion of the interview, the security of the resultant material will be the responsibility of the Police and in accordance with principles included in Appendix N of the ABE Guidance.