How can I avert a criminal act?
You can avert violent and sexual offences by reporting to the police or Child Welfare Services, or by helping the person concerned to safety, for example a crisis centre, hospital or other safe place. In the case of violence between adults, it is important to assess whether children may also be affected.
Actions you can take
Depending on the seriousness and the urgency of the situation, you have several options. It is important to be confident that whatever action you take will avert the offence.
If there is a danger to life and health, you must act quickly. If possible, observe, ask and listen to the person concerned and work together to find safe solutions. If you want to stop violence or abuse that is taking place, or there is an imminent risk of violence or abuse in the near future, your safest and most effective option may be to contact the police.
You should consider alternatives to notifying the police if you have reason to believe that the police will not be able to respond quickly enough. You may also need to consider other alternatives if the victim strongly opposes notifying the police but can be brought to safety in another way.
Also remember to consider what you can do to take care of and possibly protect the person concerned until they can receive other assistance.
Be clear and concise
When the duty to avert a criminal act has been triggered, it is important to cooperate with the person concerned, whether they are a child or an adult.
Observe and listen to the person you are worried about. If possible, agree on what information you will pass on to whom, how and when, and work together to make a plan for how to avert the offence. If you try to proceed too quickly, there is a risk that the person concerned could become scared and withdrawn and retract what they said. It is important to maintain trust.
Be clear and concise. Explain why you are worried and that you have a duty to notify someone when you find out something that makes you fear something serious could happen. Inform them that consideration for life and health takes precedence in such situations, and that your duty applies even if the person concerned does not want you to report the matter. If you, in your professional capacity, have a duty of confidentiality, explain that the duty to avert criminal acts applies regardless of your duty of confidentiality.
If you cannot agree on how to proceed, you must still remember to inform the person concerned about the actions you take and how the case will move forward. Do not share more confidential information with anyone other than what is necessary to avert the criminal act.
Dialogue is important
Sometimes, the situation requires you to act quickly, while other times it is natural to talk to the person concerned and obtain more information before contacting the police or averting the act in another way.
It can be challenging to weigh different considerations against each other. What you should do will depend on the urgency and the severity of the situation, as well as the age and maturity of the victim. If possible, talk and listen to the person concerned. Try as far as possible to find good and safe solutions together.
It can be challenging to assess how likely it is that something will happen and how urgent and dangerous the situation is for the person concerned. The fact that you could lose contact with the person who has confided in you and lose their trust if you report against their will could complicate things. On the other hand, it may be that the person will feel relieved that you have taken over the responsibility for reporting the offence. Reporting an offence is not necessarily a breach of trust.
It can be difficult to weigh the pros and cons in serious situations, but when necessary, you just have to rely on your own judgement and take action. Try as best you can to help, seek advice, trust your own good sense and your own judgement.
- Evaluate the information you have – remember that life and health come first.
- If possible, talk to and listen to the person concerned and try to find good solutions together.
- Explain why you are worried and about your duty to avert criminal acts.
- Agree on what information you should tell whom, how and when.
- If you have a duty of confidentiality, do not share more confidential information with others than necessary.
- Contact the police if the situation is urgent and dangerous.
- Contact Child Welfare Services when children are involved.
- Take care of the victim until other help arrives.