New training to help spot sex abuse
Efforts to combat sexual abuse could be boosted by new training to help medical staff spot tell-tale signs in their patients.
The course has been developed by the University of Ulster, working with the Royal College of Physicians in London.
Former police officer Jim Gamble, who led a unit tracking sex offenders, said greater awareness among health professionals could help increase convictions.
Nurses, midwives, health visitors, forensic physicians and family doctors could benefit from the training.
Dr Tara Moore from the Biomedical Sciences Research Institute (BMSRI), based at the University of Ulster's Coleraine campus, said: "If we can help professionals in contact with possible victims identify abuse and facilitate victims to go ahead with a successful prosecution, this can prevent a lifetime of abuse of the child and potentially abuse of many others by the assailant."
Mr Gamble, a former chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), welcomed the initiative.
He said: "The number of cases of abuse that are reported to the police is woefully low, and of those that reach court, fewer than 6% result in a conviction.
"The quality of forensic medical care clearly affects decisions to prosecute, and convict. Health professionals owe it to their patients to improve their skills in recognising abuse."
The initiative has been funded by the Department of Health as part of its response to last year's Taskforce on the Health Aspects of Violence Against Women and Children and will go live online on Friday.
The Government's public health minister Anne Milton gave her backing to the project, saying: "For many victims, doctors and nurses are the first or only person they can turn to."