Investigating Complex (organised or multiple) Abuse

Investigating Complex (organised or multiple) Abuse

Complex abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of children. The abusers 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.

Complex abuse occurs both as part of a network of abuse across a family or community, and within institutions such as residential homes or schools. Such abuse is profoundly traumatic for the children who become involved. Its investigation is time-consuming and demanding work, requiring specialist skills from both police and social work staff. 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. 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.

Each investigation of organised or multiple abuse will be different, according to the characteristics of each situation and the scale and complexity of the investigation. Although there has been much reporting in recent years about complex abuse in residential settings, complex abuse can occur in day care, in families and in other provisions such as youth services, sports clubs and voluntary groups. Cases of children being abused through the misuse of technology is also a new form of abuse which agencies are having to address.

Each complex abuse case requires thorough planning, good inter-agency working and attention to the welfare needs of the child victims or adult survivors involved. The guidance Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter-agency issues (Home Office and Department of Health, 2002)101 seeks to help agencies confronted with difficult investigations by sharing the accumulated learning from Serious Case Reviews. It sets out the overarching policy and practice framework to inform and shape the detailed strategic plans that agencies will need to develop when confronted with a complex child abuse case. It does not, however, provide detailed operational guidance on all aspects of such investigations. This guidance is equally relevant to investigating organised or multiple abuse within an institution. In addition,

Appendix A of this guidance identifies the issues which should be addressed in all major investigations, and which should be reflected in local procedures. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have also recently issued revised guidance on Investigating Child Abuse and Safeguarding Children.

 (Working Together 2010)

 Flow Chart for Complex Abuse – Investigation Stage

 Agenda for Complex Abuse Investigations