Policing child abuse: challenges and opportunities for specialist units

Denise Martin, Lynn Kelly, Sharon Jackson, Sabina Byszko

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)
    153 Downloads (Pure)


    Purpose: Drawing on Literature from the field and the recent experience of an evaluation into Child Abuse Investigation in Scotland, this paper will argue that evidence from the literature suggest that a more holistic approach drawing on the ideas of communities of practice could improve the way in which Child Abuse investigations are conducted.

    Design/methodology/approach: This article has been informed by a recent evaluation of a new national unit that was set up to investigate suspected child abuse in Scotland. This unit was established as part of the transition from eight regional police services in Scotland to a single national police service, Police Scotland. An important part of this evaluation was to consider the messages from previous research into the development of national police units and the role of the police in child protection investigations more generally.

    Findings: What was uncovered was that the challenges that police officers face in the current context of child abuse investigation particularly around construction of child abuse investigations, collaborative working, staff well-being, and training.

    Practical implications: Police investigations into child abuse experience a range of issues

    - Multi-agency and holistic approaches are more effective,

    - Agencies should be encouraged to establish communities of practice

    - Staff need adequate levels of support and training

    Originality/value: This paper contribute to a growing body of work examining the way child abuse investigations are conducted by police and the importance of inter-agency collaboration to support this. It contributes to academics debates and knowledge about the overall investigation process where to date there has been a paucity of literature and research which has tended to focus on evidence and experiences and to a boarder literature recognising the need for holistic approaches to approaches to tackle Child Abuse
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)132-141
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2017


    • Police Investigation
    • Child Abuse
    • interviews
    • Collaboration


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