On police receiving a report of alleged or suspected child abuse or neglect or a report that a child is at risk of being abused, neglected or harmed the following responses can be expected:
• The matter will immediately be referred to a specialist ‘Child Protection Officer’ (CPO) at the Social Support Centres Department.
• The CPO will conduct a case assessment to determine the most appropriate course of action (Criminal Investigation or Social Support intervention).
• The purpose of a criminal investigation is to gather evidence and to make the person who has perpetrated the abuse or neglect responsible for his/her behaviour.
• If the assessment indicates either that no criminal offence has been committed or that the most appropriate response is to provide social intervention the child and his or her family will be offered support and counselling.
• In either case the CPO will gather information which may include talking to the children in the family, the parents and other people who may be able to provide information such as family doctor, school teacher or other family members.
• In some instances it may be necessary to have the child undergo a full medical examination. This will be carried out by a specialist medical practitioner.
• If it is concluded that the child has not been abused, neglected or harmed and is not at risk of being abused, neglected or harmed the case will be closed.
• If it is determined that the child has been abused or neglected or that he/she is at risk of being abused, neglected or harmed a case will be opened in Social Support (in addition to any criminal prosecution) and services put in place to address the issue of risk to the child/children in the family.