Attorney General Beau Biden, joined by prosecutors and representatives from the Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware and Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, announced July 2 that he has created the Child Victims Unit, a specialized unit within the Delaware Department of Justice that streamlines the prosecutorial and social services of the Department to more effectively protect Delaware's children who are victims of the most violent crime.
“Children are especially vulnerable to acts of violence and abuse for a variety of reasons, including their young age and the fact that perpetrators are often in a position of trust or are responsible for their care,” Biden said. “The Child Victims Unit brings together prosecutors, a criminal investigator, and other staff from across the Department of Justice into a unified team focused exclusively on protecting children who are victims of crime. By integrating our efforts to protect children and families we can most effectively navigate the complex and sensitive circumstances surrounding these cases in order to secure justice for victims.”
Currently, depending on the specific nature of the crime, cases involving child victims are prosecuted by one of several units in the Attorney General’s Criminal and Family Divisions. The new Child Victims Unit is comprised of staff from both the criminal and family divisions and is charged with prosecuting all child death cases and all life-threatening crimes of violence against children statewide. It also relies on two new positions - one prosecutor and one criminal investigator - provided by the General Assembly in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
A member of the Child Victims Unit will handle each case from the Department of Justice’s first contact with police and the victim through sentencing and the Unit will be present at every substantive stage of investigations, including Children’s Advocacy Center interviews, defendant and witness interviews, and crime scene review. In addition to streamlining the department’s existing work on child victim cases Biden charged the new unit with enhancing child protections by:
• Working with police to develop investigative protocols for serious child abuse and death cases
• Facilitating law enforcement trainings on the unique circumstances of child victim cases
• Staffing existing “on-call” numbers in each county for police responding to deaths or life threatening injuries and other abuse cases
• Reviewing current law and propose legislation to address gaps or discrepancies that may exist
“Today is a great day for child victims of sexual and physical abuse in Delaware,” said Randall Williams, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware. “I applaud the Child Protection Accountability Commission for studying this issue, the attorney general for implementing the recommendations of the study, and the General Assembly for appropriating the financial resources necessary to acquire the additional resources to form this unit.”
Biden named veteran criminal prosecutor Josette Delle Donne Manning to lead the Child Victims Unit. Manning, a deputy attorney general in the criminal division, has prosecuted the full range of criminal cases, including domestic violence and abuse, sex crimes, homicide, and other violent crimes, including many that involve child victims. She will lead a team of three additional prosecutors and a criminal investigator who will work with police to ensure that no stone is left unturned in holding offenders accountable and seeking justice for child victims.
This announcement is the latest move Biden has taken to established specialized units to protect vulnerable victims. Within weeks of taking office in 2007 Biden created the Child Predator Unit, which investigates and prosecutes Internet child exploitation statewide and recently marked its 150th conviction. In October, 2007 he created the family division, the first of its kind in the nation, bringing together four existing Department of Justice units to provide a full range of legal services to victims, families, and juvenile delinquents. In 2008, Biden also established the Senior Protection Initiative and named a Senior Protection prosecutor to coordinate statewide services in cases involving senior citizen victims of crime.