HC Deb 27 February 2001 vol 363 cc604-5W
Mr. Sheerman

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent reports he has received from Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary on the cost-effectiveness of police trawling investigations relating to child abuse allegations. [151277]

Mr. Charles Clarke

There have been no reports from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary on the cost-effectiveness of child abuse investigations. The police have a duty to investigate all allegations of child abuse fully and thoroughly, and in accordance with the law. It is for individual Chief Constables to decide on the most appropriate methods of investigation in each case.

I have been in discussion with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary about what more can be done to ensure that the procedures in place for conducting these very difficult investigations are fair and robust.

ACPO are currently drawing up a manual for Senior Investigating Officers working in child abuse cases, which will include a section on good practice in tracing potential witnesses and obtaining corroborative evidence. This will provide detailed operational guidance on how to conduct such investigations, while recognising that investigators must follow emerging evidence and treat each case on its merits. In parallel with this, an inter-agency working group is currently reviewing the procedures for investigating the abuse of children in care or looked after children in the context of taking forward the Government's response to the Waterhouse Report "Lost in Care". This review will lead to the development of practical, procedural guidance to the police and social services on the handling of complex abuse investigations.

Both sets of best practice guidance should be completed by the end of March. Together they will provide a coherent policy framework for how to conduct child abuse investigations, building on best practice drawn from around the country and ensuring that the necessary procedures are in place to safeguard against the risk of false allegations

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