Within West Yorkshire Police there are Police Officers and Support Staff who form the dedicated Child and Public Protection Unit. They investigate all cases of abuse against children that occurs within family relationships, by professionals or carers and cases of organised abuse. The Unit also investigate the activity of people who use the internet and other means to distribute or collect abusive and indecent images of children.
The Unit is also responsible for dealing with individuals who are registered sex offenders, under the terms of the Sex Offenders Act 1997 and other offenders who are regarded as a potential danger to the community.
The Unit works jointly with a range of other agencies, but primarily Social Services Departments in relation to Child Abuse and the National Probation Service, in relation to Sex and Other Dangerous Offenders.
Staff in the Units are specially selected for their skills in dealing with complex and sensitive crime. They receive comprehensive initial training and a period of tutorship with an experienced Unit member. The training includes methods of obtaining evidence from vulnerable victims and witnesses, the preservation and security of forensic samples and other specialist training on how to investigate child abuse and sex offences.
A Detective Chief Inspector is Head of the Department and based at Police Headquarters, Wakefield. The DCI represents the Force on strategic and policy matters in respect of Child & Public Protection and kindred matters. The DCI represents the Police on the five local authority based Local Safeguarding Children's Boards for West Yorkshire.
The Detective Chief Inspector is supported by a team of 4 Detective Inspectors, 8 Detective Sergeants around 65 Detective Constables, and a support network of 10 liaison clerks.
The decision as to whether or not criminal proceedings should be initiated are based on three main factors:
Whether or not a criminal prosecution is in the best interests of the child.
Whether it is in the public interest that proceedings should be instigated against a particular offender.
Whether or not there is sufficient evidence to prosecute.
Whilst the responsibility to instigate criminal proceedings rests with the police, they will always seek the views of the victim and other agencies, such as Social Services and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The focus of police activity is the investigation of criminal offences, whilst the focus of Social Services work is the pastoral needs of children and their families. In addition to their duty to investigate criminal offences, the police have emergency powers to enter premises and ensure the immediate protection of children, believed to be suffering from or at risk of significant harm.