Security Research

Cooperation between Child Care and Criminal Justice Agencies in Case of Sex Offences against Children

Project Team:   Dr. Birgitt Haller
  Mag. Dr. Evelyn Dawid
Financed by:   European Commission
  Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth
Concluded in:   October 2010

Children who have become victims of sexual violence necessarily get into contact with various institutions: youth protection institutions, but also police, public prosecutors and lawyers; each one of them performing specific tasks and characterised by a different organisational structure, self-conception, interests and professional jargon. Nevertheless they need to cooperate effectively and act in harmony so as to ensure a child protection system that is as comprehensive and effective as possible.

With this in mind, the research project was aimed at designing a model concept for interdisciplinary cooperation on cases of sex offences against children, guided by the idea of setting up continuous, independent working alliances of individuals, which would at the very least include representatives of youth welfare offices and criminal justice authorities.

The project was run in Austria, Germany and Switzerland with the focus on youth welfare. In Austria, 61 questionnaires, returned by a total of 115 Youth Welfare Offices in the autumn of 2008, were input into the evaluation. As a rule, the first, general part of the questionnaire was exhaustively completed; the topics addressed in this part were contacts and cooperation with the criminal police and with criminal justice authorities, problems and conflicts encountered in the course of cooperation, and the like. The focus of the second part was on working parties dealing with sex offences: Not more than five completed questionnaires were returned, which is explained by the small number of working parties dealing with sex offences against children in Austria and by the reticence of youth welfare offices to come up with replies.

Experts were interviewed between November 2009 and May 2010: Eight interviews were conducted with members of established working parties dealing with the sexual abuse of children at district level (four working parties) or laender level (one) and involving criminal police officers. (In Austria, no data were forthcoming from working parties involving public prosecution officers or criminal judges.) In addition, three interviews were conducted with experts not participating in any cooperation alliance. None of the working parties analysed is exclusively concerned with sexual abuse of children; three are dealing with violence in general, one with violence against children.

In terms of content and assignments, the working parties are primarily tasked with improving the level of information and knowledge and secondly with networking in the sense of getting to know each other and staying in contact. Information campaigns addressed to peers and the interested broader public play a relatively subordinate role, case reviews at the time of the interview play no role at all. Germany, for instance, has different priorities when it comes to content: Though getting to know each other and keeping in contact do figure prominently, case reviews hold second place, followed by improving the level of information and knowledge of members and finally by preventive measures.

The final outcome of the national investigations and of a workshop of experts was a "base model" of interdisciplinary cooperation on cases of (sexual) violence against children – a base model that can be adjusted to the national requirements, which may differ considerably.

Details concerning the study and its results can be found here or in:

Evelyn Dawid, Jutta Elz & Birgitt Haller (ed.) (2010): Kooperation von öffentlicher Jugendhilfe und Strafjustiz bei Sexualdelikten gegen Kinder. Reihe Kriminologie und Praxis, Band 60, Wiesbaden: KrimZ