You can reverse years of child abuse

Recommendations, requests, ideas: A working group of lawyers responded to a harrowing case of child sexual abuse in Staufen in Baden-Württemberg with a bundle of good advice. The group with representatives of the higher regional court (OLG) Karlsruhe, the district court Freiburg and the district office Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald had formed in March after the youth welfare office of the district and the judiciary came under heavy fire.

Although family courts and social workers repeatedly dealt with a mother living in Staufen and her now ten-year-old son, it was possible for the woman and her previously convicted partner to abuse the boy in the most severe way over the course of two years and to offer it to other men via the Darknet. The main perpetrator was able to live under one roof with the child despite a ban on contact. An interim placement of the boy in a foster family had been terminated by two family courts without the child having had legal counsel or being heard. Later, the youth welfare office received reports of abuse of the boy, but not reported to anyone.

"Existing information was not passed on at an early stage by various bodies," states the final report of the working group, which the President of the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, Alexander Riedel, presented in Freiburg. However, the analysis should "not be about assigning blame"; one wants to "work through the processes professionally," said Riedel. The judge regretted that the boy's fate could not be reversed.

The official failure is further processed

From a legal point of view, the abuse case was dealt with in a hurry. The boy's mother, her partner and six men who abused the child for money have all been sentenced to long prison terms. The official failure is being processed further, and a working group from the Ministry of Social Affairs, Justice and the Ministry of the Interior of Baden-Württemberg will soon be starting. When it will deliver results is open.

The previous working group, initiated by the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, ultimately examined the failure of its own institutions. In her final report she avoids a judgment and leaves it at recommendations. The exchange of information between family courts, youth welfare offices and law enforcement agencies "should" be improved. The judiciary is "asked" to inform youth welfare offices at an early stage if they know about sex offenders who have contact with children. The working group also "asks" Baden-Württemberg to involve the youth welfare offices in the conception of the program for sex offenders at risk of relapse. The main culprit von Staufen and one of his accomplices were in this program. The working group "recommends" to the youth welfare office to communicate its findings immediately so that the courts can use them. In the Staufen case, the youth welfare office had not passed on information from the school.

The report recommends documenting if there is no need for assistance for the child in family court proceedings, i.e. if there is a deviation from the statutory rule. The hearing of a person who could endanger the best interests of the child - in this case the mother's partner - should "be considered". The working group also suggests discussing with the parents who should check conditions - no one had monitored the Staufen perpetrator's ban on contact. And finally, in-house lawyers from the youth welfare office should accompany such proceedings. This is at least concrete: the Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald youth welfare office is already looking for a lawyer.