The guilty and the innocents

The Protectors' Handbook - Prosecuting Child Abuse
May 12, 1995

Child abuse is a sensitive issue that requires expert handling. The Protectors' Handbook is a useful as well as a comforting book written by a child psychologist with ten years' experience in this field. It is a welcome resource for social workers, teachers, doctors, nurses and other health-care workers and police officers. The tone is upbeat and the approach commonsensical, with valuable information on areas such as how to identify and evaluate the signs of abuse, how to talk to children about these signs and how to build up their confidence in you, how to work out a recovery strategy using professional help and advice, and how to support oneself as a protector, along with information on the legal aspects of abuse and a directory of useful contacts. The structure is well-thought-out. For example, the chapter on recognising signs of abuse is further divided into three distinct age groups. Anyone with experience of cases of abuse will know how vital a factor age is.

While the Handbook provides information hitherto available only to specialists, Prosecuting Child Abuse is a specialised book based on a study sponsored by the Nuffield Foundation that critically examined the involvement in the process of prosecution of the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts. In 1988, the Government pledged to ensure that cases involving child abuse would be given priority in the criminal justice system, because the passage of time could radically affect a child's memory. The book assesses the reasons for the delays that have occurred, and suggests some reforms of the system, which the authors consider too bureaucratic. It also brings out the concealed biases among lawyers and judges, notably in relation to the admissibility of video evidence (the familar debate about how reliable are video records of interviews with allegedly abused children). Both the authors are lawyers and the book will be primarily of interest to those professionally involved in the legal aspects of child abuse cases.

Krishna Dutta, a multicultural adviser, London Borough of Haringey, has handled many cases of child abuse in schools.

The Protectors' Handbook

Author - Gerrilyn Smith
ISBN - 0 7043 4417 3
Publisher - Women's Press
Price - £6.99
Pages - 190pp

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