Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioner, said:
“As the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child is beginning its next examination of how well the UK and devolved governments are meeting their commitments to children, today reminds us of the special obligations governments and statutory agencies have to safeguard children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
“Unfortunately, recent reports (see CJI and SBNI report links in Notes to Editors below) have highlighted that in Northern Ireland, whilst the majority of sexual offences reported to the police are committed against children and young people, we still have much more to do to improve how we keep children safe from abuse and take action against those who seek to hurt and exploit them.
“There is a grave responsibility on the criminal justice system to make sure that investigations and court processes into abuse do not exacerbate children’s pain and distress and provide the highest standard of justice. This is why a ‘Barnahus’ or ‘Child House’ approach should be used so that children are better supported and professionals work more effectively to investigate offences and pursue perpetrators.
“’Barnahus’ (which literally means Children’s House) is a child-friendly, multi-agency centre where child victims can be interviewed, examined and supported to give their best evidence for any trial proceedings in one place. Recorded interviews provide the child’s evidence for court and children also receive all relevant therapeutic and family support services.
“I continue to work with the Department of Justice and others to make sure this type of support becomes a reality in the unfortunate circumstances when children require it.”