Edited by Helen Westcott and Jocelyn Jones
ISBN 1 85742 356 9
It is five years since the implementation of the Memorandum of
Good Practice, the central government rules which determine the
format of joint social services and police investigative interviews
with children where sexual abuse is suspected.
In reaction to public concern in the 1980s when children were
pressurised to 'disclose' via extended, suggestive and highly
leading interviewing techniques, the memorandum represents a
watered down version of the recommendations of the 1989 Pigot
committee and outlines a phased interview process which attempts to
combine investigation and collection of evidence in ways which are
sensitive to children's needs while also being effective in court
Helen Westcott and Jocelyn Jones have compiled a volume which
examines the working of the memorandum procedures five years on.
The result is an informative, thorough and thought-provoking
overview from a range of perspectives: children (including those
who are disabled or black), social services, police and guardians
ad litem. It sets these views into detailed theoretical, research
and policy contexts.
The conclusions of this book are pessimistic about the value and
effectiveness of the memorandum. A table contrasting the pros and
cons of the system for dealing with children's evidence is top
heavy with disadvantages. The strongest charge is that the
memorandum process significantly fails to protect children and,
instead, compounds their powerlessness and vulnerability. In this
context, while the editors make recommendations for changes to the
existing system, their view is that a fundamental revision of the
legal context of child protection is required.
Perspectives on the Memorandum includes well-written
contributions from academics and practitioners, creates an
atmosphere of stimulating discussion and debate, and will be an
essential text for professionals of all disciplines who are
involved in protecting children from abuse.
Peter Dale is children's services manager (Kent and East