Children who report violent and sexual crimes are not being taken seriously by UK police according to Britain’s victims’ commissioner
Baroness Newlove warned that authorities are failing young people who come forward with stories of violent or sexual abuse making them feel like criminals themselves.
In a review due to be published on Wednesday she found children and teenagers were made to feel like criminals themselves, accused of wasting police time or simply not believed.
Twelve female victims aged between nine and 17, and some of their parents, were interviewed about their experiences reporting sexual or violent crimes.
Many told the commissioner that they were not treated with the “dignity and respect” they expected, and some girls said they had felt as if they had to “prove themselves” or like “a test subject – a monkey in a cage to be prodded.”
“It seems that lessons are still not being learnt about believing young victims when they come forward and taking them seriously,” the report states, citing previous child abuse inquiries, including the Jimmy Savile and Rotherham grooming network scandals.
In one rape case, a teenage girl was interviewed by male officers on three separate occasions, despite asking for a female officer each time.
One young woman said her worst experience with the criminal justice system was when she was told she had only herself to blame for her own assault, as she had been “being stupid.”
Police were not the only ones the report said were guilty of neglect. Youngsters also claimed social workers, teachers, and society at large were reluctant to believe their stories.
“These children and young victims feel let down by the system that is meant to protect them. It is time attitudes towards them were changed,” Baroness Newlove said.
“I want to see agencies working together to make sure young and vulnerable victims feel supported through the criminal justice process. They deserve to be taken seriously, for their allegations to be thoroughly investigated, and to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) insists that it is “putting children first at every stage of the justice system” and accused the commissioner of drawing conclusions from a “very small sample of victims’ experiences.”