Child abuse


There are many forms of abuse against children, all of which can have long term effects on the wellbeing of a child.

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The four main types of abuse are:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • neglect.

Please see below for signs and symptoms of these forms of abuse.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be being abused please tell someone.

If you think a child is in immediate danger contact us straight away by calling 999.

NSPCC PANTS campaign

P – Privates are private

A – Always remember your body belongs to you

N – No means no

T – Talk about secrets that upset you

S -  Speak up, someone can help.

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Guidance for children
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If you or a friend is at risk of harm, or you are suffering any form of abuse, then it’s important you know that help is available. It can be a very difficult decision to tell someone so it’s important you get the right advice when you do.

  • Always dial 999 in an emergency or call our non-emergency number 101.
  • Go to your local police station and tell someone what has happened. They will take an initial report and forward this on to one of our specially trained officers.
  • Talk to someone you trust. This might be a friend, a teacher or another adult.
  • Contact ChildLine for free. You can talk about any problem and there will always be someone there to help you sort it out. You can speak to them on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk

We are committed to keeping children safe. Our staff and officers will look at every opportunity to protect children who are at risk. We work closely with our partners to investigate all levels of child abuse and make sure all children are safe from harm.

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Guidance for professionals
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As a professional if you have any concerns for the safety and welfare of a child, it’s important you understand what your responsibilities are.

You should consider the following:

  • Seek advice from your safeguarding lead.
  • In an emergency dial 999, otherwise call our non-emergency number 101.
  • Contact Police and/or Children’s Services through the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). You can contact them on:  0808 800 4005

If a child tells you something, you should:

  • Listen and not interrupt.
  • Try not to appear shocked or surprised by what they say – they might think you can’t handle what they have to say and stop, or that what they are telling you is ‘naughty.’
  • Make a written note of what they said as accurately and as soon as possible.
  • Maintain confidentiality but don’t promise you won’t tell anyone, as you may need to tell someone in order to protect them.
  • If you are unsure what to do contact the MASH for advice. Do not contact the person suspected of causing harm to the child until you have been advised if this is suitable or not.
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Neglect is when a child or young person is not being properly looked after. This could damage their health or wellbeing. These very basic needs include:

  • safety at home (including not being left at home alone)
  • proper shelter / clothing / cleanliness
  • any necessary medical treatment including dental care
  • protection from physical and emotional harm or danger - this includes protecting them from someone else who may be abusing them.

Signs and symptoms of neglect might be:

  • constant hunger or tiredness
  • poor personal hygiene
  • poor state of clothing
  • untreated medical problems
  • no social relationships

These are only a few signs and symptoms for abuse. Some, all, or none of these may be apparent. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be being abused please tell someone.

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Emotional abuse
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Emotional abuse happens in many different ways. It can affect how a young person or child feels about themselves, how they feel they fit in, with friends, at school, or where they live. Examples can be:

  • being made to feel inadequate, wrong or unhappy
  • being unfairly blamed
  • being bullied
  • being made to feel frightened or in danger
  • seeing or hearing someone from home being hurt by another member of the family (domestic violence).

Signs and symptoms of emotional abuse might be:

  • physical, mental and emotional development lags
  • continual lack of self-worth ('I'm stupid, ugly, worthless, etc')
  • inappropriate response to pain ('I deserve this')
  • neurotic behaviour (rocking, hair twisting, self-mutilation).

These are only a few signs and symptoms for abuse. Some, all, or none of these may be apparent. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be being abused please tell someone.

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Sexual abuse
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Child Sexual abuse

Child Sexual Abuse is when someone is:

  • Forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.
  • Involving children in activities which may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration or non-penetrative acts.
  • Involving children in non-contact activities such as looking at, or involvement in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
  • Grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

Signs and symptoms of sexual abuse might be:

  • Extreme reactions such as depression, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, running away, overdoses, anorexia.
  • Personality changes such as becoming insecure or clingy.
  • Being isolated or withdrawn.
  • Medical problems such as chronic itching, pain in the genitals, venereal diseases.
  • Sexualised behaviour.

These are only a few signs and symptoms for abuse. Some, all, or none of these may be apparent. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be being abused please tell someone.

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Physical abuse
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Physical abuse is when someone hurts a child or young person on purpose. This can include:

  • hitting
  • shaking
  • making a child ill
  • using an implement such as a belt, stick, wire etc to discipline.

Please tell someone if you have any concerns. Signs and symptoms of physical abuse might be:

  • unexplained recurrent injuries / marks / burns
  • wearing clothes to cover injuries, even in hot weather
  • fear of physical contact - shrinking back if touched.

These are only a few signs and symptoms for abuse. Some, all, or none of these may be apparent. If you are concerned that you or someone you know may be being abused please tell someone.

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Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel (CSARP)
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Are you an adult victim of child sexual abuse who believes they were denied justice previously? The Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel (CSARP) may be the answer..

What is the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel (CSARP)?

If a victim or survivor reported allegations of child sexual offences before 5 June 2013 and the police or the CPS decided that no further action should be taken at the time, they can request that the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel reconsider the decision, if they are not satisfied that the original allegations were dealt with appropriately. CSARP is a joint enterprise between the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). 

What does CSARP do?

The panel will consider whether the approach taken by the police or CPS was wrong and advises whether the allegations should be reinvestigated by the police or the prosecution decision reviewed by the CPS. To do this, they will look at the information requested of and provided by the relevant police force or CPS area, to decide whether to advise that the original decision was correct or if further action should be taken.

If the decision is made to reinvestigate or review the case, it will be referred back to the police force or CPS area from where the case originated for them to decide on the action to be taken.

If the panel agrees with the original decision to take no further action, the victim or survivor will be informed by letter with specialist help and support provided or signposted. There is no appeal point beyond the panel.

Sole responsibility for taking these decisions in the panel rests with the police and CPS members. The independent representative in the panel will play an advisory role i.e. they will receive and consider the relevant information and provide views to the police and CPS members of the panel as to the decision they consider should be taken.

Since being set up, 184 cases have been referred to CSARP. Of these,

  • 143 cases were reinvestigated by police or reconsidered by CPS (78%)
  • 20 cases were agreed NFA by the panel (11%)
  • 21 cases where the victim disengaged with the panel (11%)

Of the 143 cases that were reinvestigated or reconsidered,

  • 44 cases resulted in NFA by police or CPS (31%)
  • 29 cases resulted in a charging decision (20%)
  • 21 cases resulted in a conviction (15%)
  • 14 cases remain live investigations (10%)

The remaining 35 cases are recorded as either having insufficient details, resulted in NFA due to victim disengaging with the investigation or are recorded as unknown (24%).

David Lean – my experience with CSARP

A short video featuring former footballer and child sexual abuse victim, David Lean, has been created to raise awareness of CSARP and ensure victims and survivors are aware of how they can refer their case to the panel.

David, who was abused by football coach Barry Bennell in 1980, referred his case to CSARP in 2013. The panel made the decision for police to reinvestigate, which resulted in Bennell being charged.

In April 2015, Bennell pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent assault on a male under the age of 14, and two counts of enticing a boy under the age of 14 to commit an act of gross indecency. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment for these offences. 

In the video, David speaks about his experience with the panel, why he is supportive of the work they do and why he is encouraging victims and survivors to refer their case, if appropriate.

The video can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/UpZUaOW_MQg

NPCC lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said, “We have listened to the experiences of victims and survivors and we are doing our best to ensure that today, they can be confident that if they come forward to police they will be treated with empathy, their report taken seriously and a proportionate investigation will follow. 

“Policing has made mistakes in the past and we recognise that some victims and survivors may feel that they have been previously failed. However, the Child Sexual Abuse Review Panel seeks to give those victims and survivors the opportunity to get the justice they deserve – as David Lean says in the film, the impact can be life-changing.

CPS Chief Crown Prosecutor, Ed Beltrami, said, “Getting justice for victims of these horrific crimes is a priority and I urge anyone who feels a decision should be revisited to engage with the panel. Working with police, it is imperative we give victims the confidence to come forward and report these offences.

“CPS and police have come a long way over the years in understanding sexual abuse offences, and our knowledge and understanding of them will continue. It is important that decisions that were made before this change came about are looked at again.”

Why was CSARP set up?

CSARP was set up in June 2013 to look again at cases that were not covered by the Victims’ Right to Review (VRR) Scheme.

VRR was introduced to make it easier for victims to seek a review of a CPS decision not to bring charges or to terminate all proceedings; however, the scheme only applies to decisions made on or after 5 June 2013. 

Cases will be considered if:

  • The report is about an alleged sexual offence against the victim or survivor;
  • The victim or survivor is referring to a report previously made to the police about the sexual offence;
  • A decision to take no further action was taken by the police or by the CPS;
  • The alleged sexual offences was committed when the victim or survivor was under 18 years of age;
  • The alleged offender may still pose a risk;
  • The alleged offence was committed in England and Wales;
  • The case was investigated and marked no further action by police or CPS before 5 June 2013.

It is important to note that even if the victim or survivor has previously asked the police or the CPS to look at the decision they made previously, their case will still be considered. 

Cases will not be considered if:

  • The victim or survivor hasn’t previously reported the matter to the police as this will therefore be a new complaint that the police will need to investigate;
  • New evidence has come to light prompting a fresh investigation by the police;
  • The case was investigated and marked no further action by police or CPS after 5 June 2013.

Who is on the panel?

The panel consists of a Chief Crown Prosecutor, a chief police officer, a specialist prosecutor, an experienced child abuse police investigator, and an appropriate independent representative.

How do victims and survivors refer a case to the panel?

Cases can be referred to the panel directly through a dedicated email address: [email protected]

Alternatively, the victim or survivor can also bring their previous complaint back to the police force or Crown Prosecution Service.