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The BBC submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the 2009 Crown Prosecution Service audit, following eight Doctors, whistleblowing on the inconsistent and detrimental examinations of young people, at privately-run Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC’s).
SARC’s were introduced nationwide to provide a holistic, empathetic response to survivors, of all ages, who have experienced sexual abuse. These referral centres provide survivors with anonymity through self-referrals and a method for police officers to gather forensic evidence, assisting to secure evidence to prosecute sex offenders.
Preferably, police prosecution cases, recover DNA evidence from young children within 3 days, following these heinous crimes. However, one of the doctors working across multiple centres said she was aware of “…10 cases in the past two years where pre-pubescent children were not forensically examined within three days of being assaulted because there was not a qualified member of staff available.”
Dr Helena Thornton, one of the whistle blowers, typically reviews the video recordings of genital examinations of young people and saw in a quarter of the medical notes and statements “something that concerned her”.
Dr Thornton said "I have seen one where gloves were not worn," she also states "I have seen one which did not show the injuries that were documented to have been there."
Dr Thornton commented on a video recording of a genital examination that showed a pre-pubescent child who was left "beyond distressed" after a swab was taken. She stated that this video showed a procedure that was “totally unnecessary”.
She added "If a parent thought their child was going to be distressed or hurt, I'm sure they would be appalled.”
The 2009 audit revealed that only one of the reviewed cases, provided “acceptable documentation of injuries”.
Victims' Commissioner, Baroness Newlove said she was "shocked by the failings the BBC has uncovered" and "Some of the individual experiences are truly distressing,".
Baroness Newlove has now called for staff who take forensic evidence, at these centres, to be provided with standardised training; recommended over nine years ago. She states “I want to see this happen as a matter of urgency."
The Forensic Science Regulator said, it now planned to set up a whistle-blowing hotline for people with concerns.
Should you or someone you love have been subjected to degrading or inhumane treatment during a medical examination, please contact us on 0113 887 1834 for advice. Alternatively, you can text LAW to 67777 or make an enquiry using the enquiry form and we will be in touch when it is convenient for you.