Psychologists and child abuse cases

A round table on the role of psychologists in prosecutions for crimes against children, organised by the charity “In Defence Of Children”, discussed problems faced by civil servants, NGOs and specialists. Senior criminal investigator Edward Yakubovsky said that in the first eight months of this year 46,000 children were victims of violent abuse, and 5,000 of these suffered sexual abuse. A number of laws have been adopted in the field of child protection: the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation has been amended, providing for harsher sentencing for child abuse, for example, but this is not deemed sufficient. A bill under debate in the Duma provides for criminalisation of ownership of child pornography.
Olga Pchelnikova, from the Izhevsk Centre for Practical Psychology, said that it is essential to involve child psychologists in investigations, and the child victims need a course of counselling after the prosecution. A senior lecturer at the Russian Postgraduate Medical Academy, Elena Morozova, agreed, saying that a psychologist should also be present during the trial. Young children in particular are liable to give contradictory evidence, which can impede the trial.
Mr Yakubovsky agreed, but added that psychologists and psychotherapists should be under some kind of supervision, as sometimes they are not competent. He proposed the establishment of a professional body of psychologists who work with abused children. The round table adopted a resolution calling for a strengthening of the law to ensure a role for psychologists in prosecutions involving children.

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