Over 100 crèches under investigation following abuse

Between 2017 and 2022 the judicial authorities started some one hundred investigations following serious incidents in child care. 54 crèches that were investigated are still operating.

Flemish children’s agency Kind en Gezin provided lawmakers on the committee investigating abuse in childcare with a list of some one hundred dossiers that led the organisation to contact the police or the judicial authorities in order to report a serious incident of abuse.

In over half of all cases the crèche or childminder is still operating.  46 crèches have meanwhile closed but often this happened of their own accord and not because Kind en Gezin closed them down.

Not all 100 cases led to a conviction.  In some cases the abuse happened at home.  On other cases there wasn’t sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.  Prosecutors subpoenaed a quarter of the dossiers.

Wendy Vanvelthoven of the prosecutor-general’s office in Brussels told lawmakers she wasn’t familiar with the individual cases on the list but agreed it was a shame so many cases were being subpoenaed: “Often we recognise a crime has been committed, but we also need to be able to identify the culprit”.

Collecting evidence is often complicated by the fact the children involved are often unable to tell investigators what exactly happened to them.     

Investigators are often unable to share all their findings with the children’s agency e.g. due to the principle of presumption of innocence, privacy rules and worries people under investigation will alert possible accomplices to the investigation and hamper progress. 

Vanvelthoven pointed to further limitations: when a known sex offender moves in with a childminder this will not be flagged in the databanks.

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