When undertaking an investigation relating to environmental neglect, it may be appropriate to take photographs of the home. If police are attending the visit with child protection a discussion should occur prior to the visit and agreement should be reached about who will take the photos. Photographs are a powerful type of evidence but do not take the place of carefully written case notes describing the observations of the practitioner.
If attending a family home to investigate the subject matter of a report with the intention of photographing the living environment of the children, practitioners should note the following:
- always inform the parents of the intention to take the photographs before doing so
- inform parents that the photographs might be used as evidence
- photographs may be taken if the parents do not object
- photographs may be admitted as evidence in court proceedings, subject to any orders or decisions of the court. As with all exhibits, copies must be made available to all parties
- forensic photographs, for example, photos documenting a child’s injuries, must be taken by the hospital or police professional photographer
- the practitioner taking the photographs must be available to give evidence if required as to the veracity and authenticity of the photographs
- consider how parents may respond to child protection photographing their home - what might they feel? Manage the situation as sensitively as possible
- only take photographs when it is appropriate and necessary to do so, and considering the evidentiary value of any photograph taken
- practitioners should not take photographs inside the home if a parent states they do not agree to photographs being taken or asks them to leave the home
- photographs of the exterior of the house may be taken from a public area, for example, the footpath, even if a parent has stated they do not consent to this
- the privacy of individuals will need to be considered when arranging for the printing and storage of photographs.
Child protection practitioners should seek legal advice if in any doubt about their legal position regarding photographing client's homes.
Consideration for good practice
- Show sensitivity and respect in working with families; photographing someone’s home is a major intrusion.
- Take careful note of the home environment and write down exact observations, including about odour or other details not conveyed by photographs.