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What is a Child Abduction Warning Notice?

A Child Abduction Warning Notice (CAWN) is a tool used by the Police and Social Care to protect a child from an adult that may place them at risk. CAWNs aim to tackle situations where children are placed in potentially exploitative environments, and thus they are a valuable safeguarding measure.

A CAWN is essentially a warning letter issued to an adult suspected of involvement in harbouring a child; for example, an adult who allows a child to stay at their home without informing the child’s parent or carer. A police officer is responsible for serving the CAWN, and the existence of the CAWN will be shared with social care to ensure they are aware of the safeguarding risks surrounding the child.

The letter explains to the adult that they are banned from associating, contacting and communicating with the child. The CAWN usually provides a general, non-exhaustive list of what actions would lead to a breach of the CAWN. Such a breach of the CAWN may lead to the adult being arrested and prosecuted.

CAWNs are applicable to children under the age of 16, and to children over the age of 16 who are subject to a Full Care Order or emergency protection (such as an Emergency Protection Order or police protection).

CAWNs are particularly relevant to children who are vulnerable and are at risk of exploitation, and are often seen as the first step in potential prosecutions under Section 2 Child Abduction Act 1984 or Section 49 Children Act 1989.

If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties in this area, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible.  Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can assist you.

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