5.6 Organised/Multiple Abuse


This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Home Office and Department of Health 2002 Guidance "Complex Child Abuse Investigations: Inter Agency Issues".

See also: Care Plus - A Protocol for Joint Investigation in Merseyside

1. Definition

Complex (organised or multiple) abuse may be defined as abuse involving one or more abusers and a number of related or non-related abused children. The abusers concerned may be acting in concert to abuse children, sometimes acting in isolation or may be using an institutional framework or position of authority to recruit children for abuse.

The abuse may be current or historical.

Such abuse occurs both as part of a network of abuse across a family or community and within institutions such as residential settings, in day care and in other provisions such as youth services, sports clubs and voluntary groups. There may also be cases of children being abused via the use of the Internet.

2. Investigation

Each investigation of organised or multiple abuse will be different, according to the characteristics of each situation and the scale and complexity of the investigation. But all will require thorough planning, good inter-agency working and attention to the welfare needs of the child victim or adult survivor involved.

The investigation of complex abuse is time-consuming and demanding requiring specialist skills from both police and social work staff.

Some investigations become extremely complex because of the number of places and people involved, and the timescale over which abuse is alleged to have occurred.

The complexity is heightened where, as in historical cases, the alleged victims are no longer living in the setting where the incidents occurred or where the alleged perpetrators are also no longer linked to the setting or employment role. These will all need to be taken into consideration when working with a child.

The possible levels of investigation are described in full in Care Plus - A Protocol for Joint Investigation in Merseyside

3. The Child

The single and most important consideration is the safety and well-being of the child or children.

In reconciling the difference between the standard of evidence required for child protection purposes and the standard required for criminal proceedings, emphasis must be given to the protection of the children as the prime consideration.

The investigation and enquiries must also address the racial, religious, cultural, language, sexual orientation and gender needs of the child, together with any special needs of the child arising from illness or disability.

4. Referral

When receiving information, which may indicate organised or multiple abuse, the recipient should immediately refer the matter to the Police Vulnerable Persons Unit and the Service Manager in the Quality Assurance Unit.

If there is any suspicion that any managers currently employed by a social care agency are implicated or a member of the police, the matter should be referred to the Chair of Knowsley Safeguarding Children Board or in his/her absence, the Vice-Chair and a Senior Officer within the Police.

5. The Strategy Meeting

A Strategy Meeting should then be arranged to take place as a matter of urgency to assess the need for future action to be taken under this procedure and, in particular, whether a criminal investigation should take place. The Strategy Meeting must be a face to face meeting.

The timescales for the Strategy Meeting and any subsequent resource planning and required actions are set out in the Care Plus - A Protocol for Joint Investigation in Merseyside.