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The police should take the lead on protecting children from criminal abuse

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 08 February 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:343
  1. David Southall, professor of paediatrics,
  2. Martin Samuels, senior lecturer in paediatrics,
  3. John Bridson, retired consultant paediatrician
  1. North Staffordshire Hospital
  2. Barnsley

    Lord Laming's report on the life and death of Victoria Climbié is invaluable. If implemented, his recommendations will greatly help children at risk of ill treatment in families where parents are stressed, lonely, unsupported, depressed, or living in poverty. However, where criminal abuse occurs similar tragedies may continue.

    Our national and international experience of child protection led us to suggest that ill treatment be reclassified by the motive of the perpetrator and the degree of harm inflicted (Archives of Disease in Childhood 2003;88:101-7). Parents who, for example, place burning cigarettes on their child, poison, sexually abuse, suffocate, or subject their child to prolonged physical abuse (as with Victoria Climbié) are committing criminal abuse for personal gain. We consider that the police, rather than social workers, should take responsibility for protecting these children.

    It is less easy to intimidate police officers

    Most perpetrators, knowing they are committing crimes, deceive and intimidate social and health workers who are trained to work with families. …

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