Prosecutors and Safeguarding
Safeguarding is defined by Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018 as:
- Protecting children from maltreatment
- Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
- Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
- Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes
Although the main responsibility for children’s welfare and safety will usually lie with agencies such as policing, social, health and education services, there is, nevertheless, a role for prosecutors in terms of safeguarding children.
Prosecutors may have contact with children as victims or witnesses and also as defendants. This can be indirect, such as making charging decisions and file reviews, and direct, such as prosecuting cases in court.
Prosecutors’ decisions and actions may have a direct impact on the safety of a child in individual cases. Examples include:
- Considering whether bail (with or without conditions) is appropriate;
- Deciding on the charge or the public interest in prosecuting a case;
- Successfully prosecuting offenders who pose a danger to children, so that the courts can impose sentences that protect children.
One of the key points to recognise is that the prosecution process itself, particularly the trial, can be daunting and stressful for children. There are risks of re-traumatising the child or causing the child unnecessary worry and distress.