A new report from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) outlines the recent failures of the justice system in responding to cases of child sexual abuse.
Institutional problems have included both investigative and prosecutorial failures, involving inadequate responses by the police, CPS and the courts. Disruption tactics, designed to prevent perpetuators from committing further sexual offenses against children have also been underused.
The inquiry identified a number of failures by the police in investigating allegations of child sexual abuse. The police failed to fully investigate reports when officers were under the impression that children were lying. Allegations made by children, in particular those in care, were considered less believable. These failures of the police have been found in old as well as recent investigations. As a result, the investigations found that only 7% of victims and survivors reported it to the police at the time of the offence and only 18% ever told the police.
Allegations from children in Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Holding Institutes were not investigated properly, showing a failure to adhere to normal child protection procedures. Forms of control including pain compliance techniques, accepted by the Ministry of Justice, have proven to be emotionally distressing for children with experience of sexual abuse.
Delays in prosecutions have meant many have been forced to endure long waits spanning years in order to receive justice, adding further harm to complainants. This is also limiting efforts to bring perpetrators to justice, as some survivors have retracted their statements in order to not have their case prolonged. Investigations into the civil justice system have also described difficulties in seeking compensation due to the unfairness of imposing time limits within civil claims in child sexual abuse cases.
The report recommends compliance with the Code of Practice for Victims of Crime in England and Wales throughout police investigation and prosecutions. In addition, it recommended to remove the time limits on civil claims for child sexual abuse. Through following these recommendations, it is expected that survivors of child sexual abuse will be able to feel more confident in the criminal justice system.