There is no mandated time for the police to complete an investigation into alleged child abuse. It is impossible to give an average length of time it takes the police as each case is treated on its own merit and clearly some cases will be more serious and complex than others. Aspects that might affect the extent of an investigation include the degree of abuse alleged, the number of suspects, victims and witnesses and the length of time that has passed since the abuse took place.
Once reported, the police will make the decision whether to proceed with a criminal investigation and, if appropriate, the abuse will be recorded as a criminal offence. Every police force has a Child Abuse Investigation Unit (CAIU) manned by dedicated officers who are trained in the special and sensitive handling of all persons concerned in this type of a case. It is their duty and responsibility to investigate and establish the facts.
Interviews are normally video recorded rather than hand written so as to help determine the reliability of the witness. They work closely together throughout with other agencies, such as Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) who make the decision as to whether any persons should be prosecuted, based on there being sufficient evidence to proceed and it being in the public interest to do so
A criminal investigation is different to and independent of any civil claim. The standard of proof in criminal proceedings is much higher than for civil proceedings. The standard in criminal proceedings is ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, whereas for civil proceedings it is the ‘balance of probabilities’. Only a proportion of child abuse cases initially investigated will lead to a criminal investigation and/or prosecution.