Focus on making justice work for child sex abuse victims as Leeds charity hosts conference

Speakers at the conference included West Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable Dee Collins and Det Sgt Andy Pollard.
Speakers at the conference included West Yorkshire Police's Chief Constable Dee Collins and Det Sgt Andy Pollard.

Making the justice system work for the victims of child sexual abuse was the focus of a conference hosted in Leeds.

Organised in response to frustrations at the way some police forces and courts deal with victims, it also looked at wider issues like jury bias.

The aim was to build on courses already offered by the training wing of Leeds-based Basis Yorkshire and to highlight best practice nationally.

Co-organiser Adele Gladman, of consultancy Safeguarding Children, said her interest in improving the experience of victims had grown during her time as a Home Officer researcher in the wake of the Rotherham grooming scandal.

“My experience over the years is that people have been re-traumatised by the process of trying to get justice,” she said.

“To us, justice must mean justice for the people who need it most. We’re getting a result maybe, somebody is sent to prison, but we’re leaving the victim in a substantially worse position than when they approached police.”

Delegates heard directly from victims and families about their experiences, while academics and experts led sessions on research, best practice and pilots taking place.

Maggie Oliver, the former detective who played a key role in exposing the Rochdale child sex abuse scandal, had been part of the original line-up.

But she withdrew from the event at Leeds Trinity University when it coincided with her taking part in TV reality show Celebrity Big Brother.

Amber Wilson, of Basis Yorkshire, said: “What was clear from the conference for us was that there’s still a lot of work to do and so much frustration on all sides that the system doesn’t work for victims.

“At the same time, there are glimmers of hope and we were able to share best practice. The Crown Prosecution Service did a presentation ... and they’ve made some brilliant progress on things like video questioning.”

Search #makingjusticework on Twitter for more from the conference.