Room for training prosecutors specialized in investigating sexual violence against children, inaugurated at the Prosecutor's Office of the Bucharest Tribunal

The space was set up with the support of the Association for Victims of Sexual Offences and UNICEF in Romania.

18 March 2024
Representative of prosecutor's office
Asociatia pentru Victimele Infracțiunilor Sexuale

Bucharest, 18 March 2024. The first training facility for investigators specializing in the investigation of sexual offences against children was inaugurated at the Bucharest Public Prosecutor's Office for the purpose of ongoing training in forensic interviewing based on the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD-R) protocol, revised in 2018 by a team of international researchers.

The space, equipped with the latest communication technologies, so that prosecutors and specialized police officers can continue the only in-depth training program in Romania in the field of investigating sexual violence against children, was set up by the Association for Victims of Sexual Offences (V.I.S.) with the support of UNICEF in Romania, as part of the project "Justice for child victims of sexual abuse". A team of six prosecutors has been trained over the past year by Israeli researcher Irit Herskovitz, a professor of forensic interviewing at Haifa University. The Public Prosecutor's Office has seen a record number of referrals and shorter trials as a result of organising a special reporting and investigation circuit for suspected sexual violence against children.

Crimes involving sexual violence against children are difficult to investigate and require special skills on the part of investigators to ensure that disclosures are complete and proven in court. Hundreds of international studies have shown that NICHD-Revised interviews not only help to obtain vital information for criminal investigations, but also to better protect children emotionally by identifying their particular needs and referring them to support services. But these skills gained through specialist training are lost in as little as six months if investigators are not involved in ongoing training programmes, international research shows.

The V.I.S. Association and UNICEF support the Working Group against Sexual Abuse organized at the level of the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Bucharest Court, so that these results can continue being achieved.

"Investigating sexual violence against children is a priority for us and that is why we designated prosecutors a year ago to investigate these types of cases exclusively. The progress is visible: fewer but better trained prosecutors have prosecuted more cases and have solved them much faster. The training room gives us independence and flexibility, as we need to maintain the level of training and continuity in the specialisation of prosecutors, given the turnover of staff in local prosecutors' offices," says first prosecutor Adrian Țîrlea.

Mihaela Chiper, president of the Association for Victims of Sexual Offences, says: "Prosecutors in Bucharest are considerably ahead of the rest of the country. They have been using the children's hearing room for many years. They have refined their working methods and for more than a year they have had access to the highest level of knowledge in the field of investigating sexual violence against children. The stability of the professionals in this field is, however, a limit that the management of this prosecutor's office has overcome with such good results for the investigations, but especially for the children who have crossed the threshold of the institution. After sexual abuse, the only concern for children and the adults who protect them should be access to a support program, not convincing the justice system that they are victims."

"The relationship of trust between child and interviewer is the only one that can lead to disclosure. This relationship between the child and the state representatives should not stop at the hearing and should continue with the other actors involved in the management of the case", explained prosecutor Alexandra Tomescu, who during the supervision of Israeli researcher Irit Hershkovitz has prosecuted over 30 sex offenders in the capital and conducted over 70 hearings based on the NICHD-R protocol.

 "We have the highest number of reports of child sex crimes in the country. Changing the way we work has also led to increased confidence to disclose. More and more professionals from complementary systems (child protection, education, health) are turning to us to find out the truth and protect the child at the same time. If five, six years ago there were less than 200 reports per year in the Capital, in 2022 the increase was visible, 391 cases, and in 2023 - more than 400 cases in which some form of sexual abuse against minors was reported", says Marian Trușcă, coordinator of the Working Group against Sexual Abuse at the Capital's Prosecutor's Office.

"The training of professionals working in the field of investigating sexual offences against children is crucial for upholding children's rights and for delivering justice that truly takes children's interests into account. I am pleased that this partnership between UNICEF, civil society and state institutions is already producing concrete results that will bring long-term change. UNICEF remains a dedicated partner for all institutions protecting children's rights, offering its support whenever needed," said Anna Riatti, UNICEF Representative in Romania.

The partnership between the Association for Victims of Sexual Offences and UNICEF in Romania runs from October 2022 to June 2024 and aims to improve judicial procedures in cases of sexual violence against children, but also to create a network of professionals from the judiciary, forensic medicine and DGASPCs, focused on obtaining solid evidence in cases of sexual violence against children. As part of this initiative, more than 400 local professionals, including psychologists and forensic doctors, participated in trainings designed to help them align their work with internationally recognized standards on interviewing child victims of sexual violence and international recommendations on the management of such cases.

Media contacts

Cătălin Pruteanu
Media Officer
UNICEF Romania
Tel: +40 726 107 799

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

About the Prosecutor's Office of the Bucharest Tribunal

The Bucharest Public Prosecutor's Office is one of the largest prosecutorial units of the Public Ministry, with competence in investigating crimes of serious violence, corruption, economic and financial crimes and computer crimes. Despite changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure which gave jurisdiction to investigate sexual violence against children to the prosecutors' offices of the courts, prosecutors at the Bucharest Court Prosecutor's Office have continued to take on complex investigations. The cases of paedophiles such as Ninel Șerbănescu or Eugen Stan showed the shortcomings of the system oriented towards investigating sexual assaults against children as unique cases, which allowed the registration of complaints from victims of the same perpetrator at several prosecution offices. The Sexual Assaults Bureau of the Homicide Service of the Bucharest Police Department was set up in this context, but the number of workers does not allow for the investigation of all suspected cases of sexual violence against children registered in Bucharest. The Working Group against Sexual Abuse was organised at the level of the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Bucharest Court in order to better coordinate the work in this field, and currently includes four prosecutors from the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Bucharest Court, as well as 8 other prosecutors from the district prosecutors' offices.

About the Association for Victims of Sexual Offences

Established in February 2021, V.I.S. has a long-term mission to contribute to raising awareness of the need to respond to sexual violence in Romanian society and to ensure that the state effectively prevents and penalises sexual violence, protects and supports trauma healing and social recovery of victims. In partnership with the Public Ministry, we have set up with the support of our partners 8 spaces dedicated to the hearing of children in the prosecutor's offices of the courts of Constanța, Vâlcea, Vrancea, Sibiu, Mureș, Argeș, Bacău and Bucharest, plus an integrated centre for the investigation of sexual violence against children in Săftica, Ilfov. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/AsociatiapentruVIS.