Doctors say police should take child protection lead

Police child protection teams should take the lead in protecting
children from criminal abuse, leading paediatricians have argued,
writes Alex Dobson.

David Southall from North Staffordshire Hospital said Lord
Laming’s recommendations following the inquiry into the death
of Victoria Climbie will protect children at risk of ill treatment,
where parents are unsupported or living in poverty, but that it
will not prevent criminal abuse.

Southall and other doctors, who have written an article in the
‘British Medical Journal’, said that professionals work competently
with children in need, but that there are serious concerns where
families are hostile.

They refer to recent papers they have written concerning a new
way of looking at child ill treatment, including a suggestion that
special inter-agency taskforces on criminal abuse are established
and run by police units.

They say that this is the best way to ensure that, as Lord
Laming expects “the standard of investigation into criminal
offences against children” will be “as rigorous as the
investigation of similar crimes against adults”.

The doctors also said paediatricians, who are often the first to
identify a potentially abused child, are becoming less willing to
initiate proceedings because parents often make complaints and use
the media to promote their cause.

They warn that failure to protect professionals in order to
appease parents and the public, will continue to deter frontline
workers from speaking out.

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