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1.4 Abuse by Children

See also Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA) (Home Office)


This chapter was updated in October 2015 when a link to Home Office guidance on Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse was added (see above).


1. Scope


This procedure is additional to the usual procedures for all children and applies when there is an allegation or suspicion that a child has abused or is at risk of abusing another child or adult, including both those:

  • Outside of the child's immediate household; and
  • Within her/his household e.g. sibling abuse.

2. Threshold for Referral

Child Victim

2.1 Severe harm may be caused to children by abusive and bullying behaviour of other children, which may be physical, sexual or emotional and such abuse must be taken as seriously as abuse perpetrated by an adult.
2.2 The same signs and symptoms of abuse that pertain to the abuse of children by adults are applicable to the abuse of children by other children.
2.3 The effect on the victim of intimidation and peer pressure by their abuser may make disclosure difficult for the victim.
2.4 In sexual abuse between children it is important to determine what is developmentally normal sexual experimentation and what is coercive

Professionals must decide in the circumstances of each case whether or not behaviour directed at another child should be categorised as 'abusive' and it will be helpful to consider the following factors:

  • Relative chronological and developmental age of the 2 children (the greater the difference the more likely the behaviour should be defined as abusive);
  • A differential in power or authority (e.g. related to race or physical or intellectual vulnerability of the victim);
  • Actual behaviour (both physical and verbal factors must be considered);
  • Whether the behaviour could be described as age appropriate or involves inappropriate sexual knowledge or motivation;
  • Physical aggression, bullying or bribery;
  • The victim's experience and perception of the behaviour;
  • Attempts to ensure secrecy;
  • An assessment of the change in the behaviour over time (whether it has become more severe or more frequent);
  • Duration and frequency of behaviour.
2.6 When there is suspicion or an allegation of a child having sexually abused or being likely to sexually abuse another child (or an adult), it should be referred immediately to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub or the CAIU.

Adult Victim

2.7 If allegations concern abuse of an adult by a child, the police would normally undertake the criminal investigation, but Children's Social Care should be advised of any allegation of abusive behaviour by a child, irrespective of the age of the victim.

Alleged Abuser

2.8 The possibility the abuser is or was also a victim should be considered.



Bullying is a common form of deliberately hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for the victims to defend themselves.

See Brief Guides, Bullying
2.10 The damage inflicted by bullying is often underestimated and can cause considerable distress to children to the extent that it affects their health and development. In the extreme it can cause Significant Harm, including self-harm.
2.11 It can take many forms, but the main types are physical e.g. hitting, kicking, theft; verbal e.g. racist or homophobic remarks, threats, name calling and emotional e.g. isolating an individual from social activities. Bullying can also be perpetrated online (cyber bullying). Perpetrators and victims of bullying may be male or female
2.12 All settings in which children are provided with services or are living away from home are required to adopt policies to combat bullying and in the first instance, cases should be dealt with under such policies.
2.13 Where there are concerns about sexual abuse or serious or persistent physical or emotional abuse, referrals should be made to Children's Social Care or the police CAIU.
2.14 Bullying may involve an allegation of crime (assault, theft, harassment) and this must be reported to the police at the earliest opportunity.

Schools' Role in Recognition of Abuse

2.15 Concerns about possible abuse by one child of another are frequently first considered within a school environment and it may frequently be unclear if the circumstances should be considered under child protection procedures or not.
2.16 Where it is clear that the concern is one of child protection there should be no delay in the referral to Children's Social Care or the CAIU e.g. disclosure or witnessing of sexual abuse or allegation of physical assault.

Where further assessment is required prior to deciding the extent and nature of the concerns, the school should:

  • Ensure parents / guardian of both victim and alleged perpetrator/s are advised and invited to be present when the children are interviewed formally;
  • Provide pupils with the opportunity to record or dictate in their own words their version of events;
  • Consider any need to separate the alleged victim and perpetrator in the classroom, in the school and the possible need to send one or both home;
  • Not interview either child on their own after the preliminary interview following the complaint/concern - they should be accompanied by a parent or guardian;
  • Keep a written record of pertinent information including date, time, those present and signature - a diagram / photo of the room / playground may be useful, as well as a description of who was present etc.;
  • Provide the child with the opportunity to confirm the accuracy of the record and record any disagreement.

3. Response

3.1 These procedures are additional to those that apply to all children.
3.2 The interests of the identified victim must always be the paramount consideration. However, whenever a child may have abused another, all agencies must be aware of their responsibilities to both individuals and multi-agency management of the case must reflect this. It is likely that the abuser may pose a significant risk of harm to other children, have considerable needs themselves and may also be or have been the victim of abuse.

Strategy Discussions

3.3 On receipt of a referral to Children's Social Care, an initial Strategy Discussion must take place between Children's Social Care and the CAIU to share the information and determine whether the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry has been reached.
3.4 The CAIU will also decide whether a criminal offence is alleged.
3.5 Where the decision is reached that the alleged behaviour does not constitute abuse and there is no need for further enquiry or criminal investigation, the details of the referral and the reasons for the decision must be recorded. In these circumstances consideration should be given to the need for any further assessment or support services, from any agency, for either child. In the case of a child's sexualised behaviour, consideration should be given to the use of multi-agency Child in Need meetings.
3.6 Where the decision is reached that the behaviour does constitute alleged abuse and the suspected abuser is a young person, Children's Social Care must convene a Strategy Discussion (usually a meeting) within the Section 47 time-scales.
3.7 In cases where the alleged perpetrator is below the age of criminal responsibility, those involved in the strategy discussion should agree whether or not police involvement in the enquiry is necessary.
3.8 When the young people concerned are the responsibility of different local authorities, each must be represented at the strategy discussion, which will usually be convened and chaired by the authority in which the victim lives.
3.9 The strategy discussion must consider the needs of both children. Best practice would be for separate meetings to be convened for victim and alleged abuser.
3.10 A different social worker should be allocated for the victim and the abuser, even when they live in the same household, to ensure that both are supported through the process of the enquiry and that both their needs are fully assessed.

The Strategy Discussion will be convened and chaired by Children's Social Care and a record made. The following individuals should be invited to the meeting:

  • Social worker for the child who is suspected or alleged to have sexually abused another person;
  • Social worker for the child alleged to have been abused;
  • Social workers' team/group manager/s;
  • Police CAIU;
  • YOT representative where the alleged abuser is aged ten or over;
  • School representative/s (particularly if the concerns suggest that other children in the school setting may have been or may be at risk of being abused);
  • School nurse or other health services staff as required;
  • Representatives of fostering or residential care as applicable;
  • Children's Services (Education) lead officer.

The discussion must plan in detail the respective roles of those involved in enquiries and ensure that:

  • Information relevant to the protection needs of the alleged victim is gathered;
  • Any criminal aspects of the abuse are investigated;
  • Any information relevant to any abusive experiences and protection needs of the alleged perpetrator is obtained.

In planning the investigation the following factors should be considered:

  • Age of both children;
  • Seriousness of the alleged incident;
  • Effect on the victim and her/his own view of personal safety;
  • Parental attitude and ability to protect their child;
  • Arrangements to protect the victim and other children, especially where the victim and alleged perpetrator are in the same household or school class;
  • Whether there is suspicion that the alleged abuser has also been abused;
  • Whether there is reason to suspect that adults are also involved;
  • The likelihood and desirability of criminal prosecutions taking place.
3.14 Where there is suspicion that the child is both an abuser and a victim of abuse, the strategy discussion must consider the order in which interviews will take place.
3.15 Where police decide to conduct a separate 'offender' interview, Children's Social Care will not normally be involved other than in performing any statutory responsibilities to the child e.g. as appropriate adult.
3.16 Throughout the enquiry, the immediate protection of the child/ren must be ensured, if that is necessary.

4. Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries

4.1 The outcome of enquiries is as described in the Section 47 Enquiries Procedure. However, the position of the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator must be considered separately.
4.2 If the information gathered in the course of enquiries suggests that the perpetrator is also a victim, or potential victim, of abuse including neglect, a Child Protection Conferencemust be convened.
4.3 Where there are no grounds for a child protection conference, but concerns remain regarding the child's sexually abusive behaviour, s/he will be considered as a Child in Need. In such cases, a multi-agency planning meeting should be held.

5. Child Protection Conference

5.1 Consideration should be given to inviting a team representative to the conference of alleged abusers aged 10 or over, and informing YOT of the meeting in the case of younger children.
5.2 As well as carrying out all of its normal functions the child protection conference must consider how to respond to the child's needs as a possible abuser.
5.3 Where the alleged abuser is not made the subject of a Child Protection Plan, consideration should be given to the need for services to address any abusive behaviour and the multi-agency responsibility to manage any risk, through the use of multi-agency child in need meetings.

6. Criminal Proceedings

6.1 The decision as to how to proceed with the criminal aspects of a case will be made by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This decision will take into account any recommendations of the YOT and the views of other professionals.

Best practice suggests that criminal proceedings should not be taken where:

  • Criminalising certain types of behaviour may be detrimental to the interests of all concerned;
  • It is inappropriate to pursue the criminal aspects of the case because the professionals are satisfied that sexual activity took place but that it was not abuse.

7. Multi Agency Child in Need Meetings

7.1 Where there are insufficient grounds for holding a Child Protection Conference, or where one has been held but a Child Protection Plan was not implemented, a multi-agency approach will still be needed if the young abuser's needs are complex.
7.2 In such cases a multi-agency child in need (CIN) meeting should be convened by Children's Social Care to pool information, allocate roles and set a time-table for an assessment of the needs of the child and the risk posed by them, as well as to co-ordinate any other interim intervention.

The meeting should be chaired by the appropriate line manager and held within:

  • 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion; or
  • 3 months of the child protection conference which decided that a protection plan was not required.
7.4 Those invited should include participants of the strategy discussions and representatives from health (including child and adolescent mental health services), school and any other appropriate service provider, the child and her/his parents / carers.

A plan should be agreed which:

  • Defines the elements of a multi-agency assessment;
  • Identifies any specialist assessments of the abusive behaviours;
  • Addresses any immediate intervention required to minimise risk of future offending, including educational and accommodation needs;
  • Co-ordinates the role of relevant agencies and identifies those responsible for specific actions;
  • Defines timescales, expected outcomes and contingency arrangements.
7.6 On completion of the assessment, the same forum should be reconvened (within 3 months) to consider the outcome and the use of a further child in need plan.
7.7 Intervention should be reviewed at multi-agency meetings at intervals of no more than 6 months. At the point of closure, the review will consider the possible need for long-term monitoring and the availability of advice and other services.
7.8 Each meeting should consider the need for relevant professionals to meet regularly prior to the next review, so as to ensure that the plan is progressed and contingency arrangements implemented if required.
7.9 Young people with inappropriate sexual behaviour who are re-entering the community following a Custodial Sentence or time in secure accommodation, or who move into an area from another local authority also require such a multi-agency assessment and planning of intervention.
This page is correct as printed on Saturday 2nd of July 2022 03:41:09 PM please refer back to this website ( for updates.