Letter: Abused by the law

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is difficult to overstate the frustration felt by those professionals involved in the identification and treatment of children who have suffered sexual abuse, when reading reports of ill-considered comment as that made by Judge Starforth Hill in sentencing an adult for attempted unlawful intercourse with an eight-year-old girl (9 June).

The frustration is felt not so much by reason of the actual comments, but because of what it represents as an attitude, built into a system that accepts arguments to the effect that an eight-year-old child who is the victim of abuse by an adult can ever, to any degree, be responsible for, and so diminish responsibility of the adult for, the commission of such offences.

That judges are 'out of touch' can no longer be a credible excuse. We are told the Lord Chancellor's department has invested heavily in training programmes for judges to ensure they are aware of issues relevant to child abuse, particularly the impact of such abuse on the victim.

Sadly, systems that perpetrate further abuse on a child victim are unlikely to change until those working within the system show some understanding of, and commitment to, the improvement of the welfare of the victim. Collusion with the inclination of perpetrators to deny responsibility by blaming the victim does not encourage confidence by those responsible for the care and protection of children in the operation of the criminal process.

Professionals and others responsible for the welfare of children will continue to think long and hard before allowing their children to be involved in and exposed to such a damaging experience, to the detriment of justice.

Yours faithfully,


Chairman, British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect