Government child abuse priority promise still falling short of target, reveals report

THE HOLLOWNESS of a government commitment to prioritise child abuse cases is exposed by the lack of monitoring to assess its success, claims the author of a new study.

Research published in ’Prosecuting Child Abuse’, by Joyce Plotnikoff and Richard Woolfson, indicates that child abuse cases take approximately twice as long as other cases to come to court.

The report is based on

research conducted in 1992 and 1993, and a CPS spokesman says guidelines have already been introduced that are intended to encourage prosecutors to give a higher priority to child abuse cases.

Plotnikoff welcomes the CPS procedures and says she and Woolfson have noticed some improvement in the speed of cases during a continuation of their research, conducted for the Government.

But she says without a government unit to monitor the effectiveness of these and other measures to ensure the “speedy progress” of child abuse cases it will not be possible to assess their impact.

“The fact there is no official monitoring is an example of the Government’s lack of commitment. Once our research has finished there will be no further statistics,” she says.

The report criticises management controls at all stages of the criminal justice process and says there are systematic delays at odds with the Government commitment to reduce trauma by giving the cases priority.

It adds there is a widespread but mistaken belief that children should not receive pre-trial therapy in case it contaminated their evidence. The report also adds that there remains considerable resistance in the legal profession to the use of video technology intended to keep children out of the courtroom.