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Policing child abuse: challenges and opportunities for specialist units

Denise Martin (School of Media, Culture and Society, University of the West of Scotland, Paisley, UK)
Lynn Kelly (School of Education and Social Work, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK)
Sharon Jackson (Department of Psychology, Social Work and Allied Health Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK)
Sabina Byszko (School of Education and Social Work, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Article publication date: 12 June 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on the literature from the field and the recent experience of an evaluation into a child abuse investigation in Scotland, the purpose of this paper is to argue that evidence from the literature suggests that a more holistic approach drawing on the ideas of communities of practice could improve the way in which child abuse investigations are conducted.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper has been informed by a recent evaluation of a new national unit that was set up to investigate suspected child abuse in Scotland. This unit was established as part of the transition from eight regional police services in Scotland to a single national police service, Police Scotland. An important part of this evaluation was to consider the messages from previous research into the development of national police units and the role of the police in child protection investigations more generally.

Findings

What was uncovered were the challenges that police officers face in the current context of child abuse investigation particularly around construction of child abuse investigations, collaborative working, staff well-being and training.

Practical implications

The practical implications of this paper are as follows: police investigations into child abuse experience a range of issues, multi-agency and holistic approaches are more effective, agencies should be encouraged to establish communities of practice and staff need adequate levels of support and training.

Originality/value

This paper contributes towards a growing body of work examining the way in which child abuse investigations are conducted by police and the importance of inter-agency collaboration to support this. It contributes to academic debates and knowledge of the overall investigation process where, to date, there has been a paucity of literature and research that has tended to focus on evidence and experiences and to a boarder literature recognising the need for holistic approaches to tackle child abuse.

Keywords

Citation

Martin, D., Kelly, L., Jackson, S. and Byszko, S. (2017), "Policing child abuse: challenges and opportunities for specialist units", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 132-141. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRPP-01-2017-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited