Sophie is a ten year old girl who had disclosed to her teacher that she was being sexually abused. Her teacher followed all the right steps in child protection, told Sophie that she had done the best possible thing and shared exactly what she had said with children’s social care. Lauren, her social worker, visited Sophie and her family and the next step was to attempt an ABE (achieving best evidence) interview.
Achieving best evidence
Achieving best evidence, or joint investigative interviews (JIIs) in Scotland, are video recorded interviews conducted in child protection cases by the police and a social worker.
ABE and JII serve these two primary purposes:
- evidence gathering for use in criminal proceedings
- the examination in chief of the child witness.
Any relevant information gained during the interview can also be used to inform child protection inquiries and subsequent actions to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, as well as in some cases the welfare of other children. Achieving best evidence guidance states that the process should start by building rapport. We frequently hear of social workers and police officers using Mind Of My Own apps to help them easily develop a working relationship, settle and reassure the child while gaining a good understanding of the child’s life.
Planning the interview
Research has shown that too often the views and opinions of children and young people are ignored or marginalised in the planning process. Wherever possible, and where practicable, children and young people in particular should be consulted about matters appropriate to their age and understanding, contributing to the planning and preparation for interview. Their contribution is essential for when and where the interview will take place, who will present and who will conduct the interview.’ You can read more about best practice here.
The joint planning happened with an in-depth discussion about how the interview would be managed and it was agreed that Sophie was to be interviewed in the suite in the police station. When Sophie arrived with Lauren she became very upset and didn’t want to do it so the first attempt failed.They agreed to a second attempt. Lauren used Express with Sophie to get to know her better and help her to open up a little. Together they then used the ‘Prepare for a meeting’ in the One app through Lauren’s worker account.
Sophie was able to express where she would like the meeting to be and chose to do it at her school. When asked who she would like to be there she asked to sit next to the school’s therapy dog. Hearing and acting upon Sophie’s views enabled the interview to go ahead successfully. She was much more relaxed in school where she felt most comfortable and sat with the dog. This interview was very successful and the investigation is now going ahead.
After the meeting Sophie used the ‘How did the meeting go?’ scenario and said that she felt her views were heard, nothing could be improved. She said:
I did my ABE interview and after I felt good. I think that having the dog in with me helped. I wasn’t scared.
Sophie also used ‘My worker is visiting’ to share what was good in her life right now and how she felt.
Sophie now has a child protection plan and Lauren is planning a handover with her new social worker, using the Mind of My Own statements from the One app and Express to ensure her voice is loud and clear in the process.
Lauren believes that if the child feels more in control of an interview, then the police will get more information from the child.
Best practice in action
Best practice states that child protection inquiries should be carried out in such a way as to minimise distress to the child. By understanding Sophie’s views Lauren did exactly that. Sophie was able to use technology alongside human interactions to share very difficult information in a way that suited her.
Sophie felt in control and able to influence what was no doubt one of the most difficult experiences of her young life.