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New child interview model training 'around 80% of the way there'

Head of the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit, Det Supt Martin MacLean, said there will be trained officers in every policing division in Scotland by the end of spring 2024.

A scheme which will train police officers and social workers to carry out joint investigative interviews of children in Scotland is nearing completion - six years after its creation in 2017.

The Scottish Child Interview Model (SCIM) is designed to secure the child’s best evidence at the earliest opportunity and minimise the risk of further traumatisation.

Detective Superintendent Martin MacLean discussed its progress on Wednesday at a CSE evidence session with the Criminal Justice Committee.

"Since late 2019 through to date, there's been a succession of initial cohorts trained for various local authority and policing partnerships around the country.

"We're probably around 80% of the way there with the initial funding for that team due to expire in March 2024...by the conclusion of spring time 2024, there'll be SCIM trained officers in all local authority and police divisions of Scotland.

As it stands, initial cohorts have been trained in 10 policing divisions.

Det Supt MacLean, who also co-chairs the national joint investigative interviewing governance group, explained that 2017-2019 was spent creating a new training course which he believes is a "significant enhancement" in how vulnerable victims and witnesses are interviewed.

"To quickly put that into some context, you're talking about a course that previously was a five-day training course for police and social workers to effect a joint investigative interview of a child in a child protection context.

"That is now effectively almost a six-month training programme, comprising of five modules with the best part of five weeks face-to-face training."

The SCIM training was discussed in the context of a rising number of CSE offences in Scotland, which Det Supt MacLean said have increased by 6.6% (according to figures from the last financial year, compared against the five-year average).

Moreover, industry referrals - especially from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children - shot up by 500% between 2015-2022.

He told the committee: "These referrals in the main translate into enforcement activity largely carried out by my operational teams...last year alone translated to 712 investigations, 489 arrests and 782 children safeguarded."

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