A dedicated video interview suite for children and young people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse was officially opened today (Wednesday 29 June, 2022).
The rooms are part of the East Midlands Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Service (EMCYPSAS) suite at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, which was opened in 2018 thanks to a £281,600 grant from Nottingham Hospitals Charity.
The additional interview suite has been funded thanks to a further grant of £395,500 from Nottingham Hospitals Charity, which includes £60,000 allocated by the Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry.
Children and young people who have been sexually assaulted or abused are currently seen at the EMCYPSAS suite for a medical examination, treatment to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and referral for therapeutic support. Previously, the children and young people would then have to travel to a police station for police interviews before or after an examination.
The new Video Recorded Interview (VRI) suite will allow children to be interviewed by police within the hospital environment, rather than having to travel to a police station. The rooms are designed to be a safe space for children and young people, away from the rest of the hospital, and the suite includes a family room, examination room, and interview room.
This safe and comforting environment will allow survivors of child sexual abuse to speak freely and provide police with a video-recorded statement, which may be used as evidence in court.
Opening the VRI suite today, Barbara Cathcart, Chief Executive of Nottingham Hospitals Charity, said: “It is devastating to think of any child needing to use this facility, but we are so grateful to our donors for enabling us to grant over £395,000 to give children a safe space, away from busy hospital wards and police stations, in which to receive the care they need and have their voices heard. Thank you to all our fundraisers and donors for helping to make this possible.”
Dr Fiona Straw, Consultant Community Paediatrician and clinical lead for EMCYPSAS, said: “Children who disclose that they have been sexually abused often face multiple interviews with social workers, police and medical professionals in a variety of settings.
“Interviews are often the only source of evidence in sexual abuse cases, yet for many children and young people the interviews do not enable them to provide the best possible evidence.
“Repeat interviews can be confusing and cause children, particularly young children, to give inconsistent evidence, which, in many cases, will lead to the perpetrator not being charged.
“Children can be traumatised by having to give an account of their abuse to multiple professionals in multiple locations.”
The new suite is based on the Barnahus, or ‘children’s house’, model which is used in Iceland, and where police interviews, medical examinations and child/family therapy is all provided in one environment.
Since its introduction in 1998, the children’s house model has delivered compelling results – a trebling of the number of perpetrators charged, a doubling of the number of convictions, and better therapeutic outcomes for children and their families.
Dr Straw added: “On behalf of the children, young people and their parents or carers I am really grateful to Nottingham Hospitals Charity and their donors for their very generous donation, which has enabled the development of a Nottingham ‘children’s house’, ensuring that the voices of children and young people are properly heard and offenders of sexual violence are successfully prosecuted.”
The opening event was attended by representatives from EMCYPSAS, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, Nottingham Hospitals Charity, Nottinghamshire Police, Nottinghamshire Sexual Violence Support Services, and Victim Support.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Dickson, of Nottinghamshire Police’s public protection team, said:
“The force is committed to continuously improving the service it provides to victims of child abuse and a crucial part of this is making sure children feel as comfortable as possible while they give their evidence.
“This new video interview suite will provide children with a safe and comforting space in which to speak to us in trust and confidence.
“The safeguarding of children is of paramount importance to Nottinghamshire Police and we hope our use of this new dedicated suite will also give more children and young people the confidence to come forward and report abuse.
“I can reassure them that they will always be listened to by the force and be supported by specially-trained officers when they report offences of this nature.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said: “The experience of giving evidence after a traumatic incident of sexual violence or abuse can be incredibly difficult for children and young people.
“This video interview suite allows them to talk about their experiences in a supportive environment where they can feel comfortable engaging with the criminal justice system.
“I was delighted to make a £60,000 donation toward this project, which will make a huge difference to the support offered to children and young people and will help improve criminal justice outcomes.”
For more information about Nottingham Hospitals Charity please visit www.nottinghamhospitalscharity.org.uk
For more information or to receive support from the East Midlands Children and Young People’s Sexual Assault Service, please visit www.emcypsas.co.uk/