Letter: Protecting children

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The Independent Culture
Sir: In mid-November I witnessed a neighbour punching his eight year-old stepson in the street ("I'm sorry but your children are not your own private property", 16 March).

I remonstrated with him and later phoned the NSPCC child helpline.

Four weeks later I was telephoned by the social services and asked to make a formal statement and act as a witness in any future prosecution. I was asked to contact the child protection unit of the police and was interviewed by a police officer.

Some weeks later I rang the police to ask if I would be needed as a witness, to be told that, because of the delay between my reporting the assault and the police's involvement, they would not be able to pursue the case as there would be no physical evidence.

The case was returned to social services and shortly after they visited the family.

Within days of the visit, the tyres on my car were slashed. A month later they were slashed again, and last week my car was vandalised.

I am not suggesting that social services leaked my name but rather the family made the connection between their visit and my having challenged the father.

Other neighbours who have witnessed the children being assaulted are now even less likely to come forward to give evidence.

Having suffered hundreds of pounds worth of damage to my property I hope that, if faced with a similar situation, I would act in the same way - but I do know that I would think twice about it.