A wrap-up of the Children, Justice and Communication Conference at Portsmouth University, May 2017.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the Children, Justice and Communication Conference at Portsmouth in the UK.
The conference is hosted by some of the world’s leading academics and practitioners working in the areas of child sexual exploitation, trafficking, child abuse, incest and more.
Opened by Professor Ray Bull, the conference featured the work of Professor Becky Milne, Dr Julie Cherryman, Dr Lucy Akehurst and Professor Penny Cooper to name but a few.
The audience, mostly police officers from the UK, represent those forward-thinking agencies and officers who want to make a change for the good and tackle some of the most challenging crimes. The number of police officers with higher research degrees is particularly impressive, and is having a massive impact on the quality of policing not only in Britain, but around the world.
Tackling challenging issues across the globe
Some of the issues covered on the first day included the conundrum of obtaining evidence from teenagers who have been exploited and trafficked but consider their actions to be consensual and complicit in the activities. How do we empower these individuals to become witnesses rather than to take on the persona of victim?
Dr Brian Chappel, a senior police intelligence expert, spoke of the use of juveniles as critical intelligence sources necessary to infiltrate youth gangs. Interestingly, his research showed that the 10 informants who participated in his study were themselves free from any police intervention up to a year later.
Dr Shaleve-Greene addressed the issues for agencies in handling or identifying the 10,000 unaccompanied migrant minors that go missing across Europe every year. This was another statistic to get my head around – this number reflects only those we know about who are missing and vulnerable to traffickers and exploitation. There are also tremendous challenges to local safeguarding children boards, such as the one operating in Kent on the south coast of Britain.
Dr Sue Gower spoke about the services and educational needs of their staff when they take on responsibility for the children from their own county, a similar number from neighbouring counties, and then double the number to account for the unaccompanied immigrant minors arriving from Europe.
How intermediaries are working successfully overseas
Professor Penny Cooper hosted a panel of experts who presented on a range of issues connected to the use of intermediaries who support and assist children and vulnerable adults to communicate with police, and courts.
The NSW Department of Justice is currently trialling the use of intermediaries, so it was great to hear the many ingenious and fantastic ways these experts have of working with children to help them communicate. Convictions have been secured with the use of evidence from children as young as three-years-old. These presentations also addressed the increasingly common needs of children with autism spectrum disorder.
As practitioners, it’s so important to stick our heads above the partition wall and have a look at the fantastic work going on around the world.
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