Must the police investigate allegations of child abuse?
Police have a legal responsibility to safeguard children under 18, together with other agencies such as the local authority, healthcare professionals and schools. This includes sharing information held by police which is relevant to protect a child from harm.
When a child has been the victim of child abuse within the family, police will often work together with social workers to interview the child or conduct joint visits to the home.
The police will investigate criminal offences such as physical assaults, sexual assaults and neglect of children. They don’t always decide to prosecute because it’s sometimes more appropriate for the family to work with social workers to protect the child.
Whether the police prosecute or not, there will, in some cases, be a need for structured support to protect the child. If so, the local authority may call a child protection conference where professionals and parents can discuss the risks and make decisions. The police are involved in these meetings.
Information about domestic violence is always shared by the police. This is because domestic violence can have a serious impact upon children even if the child is in another room when it happens.