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Wednesday 3 July 2019

A criminology lecturer from Solent University has received a top award from the Cambodian government, in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of child protection.

Nigel Lee was bestowed with the award - a Mahasena (Grand Officer) of the Royal Order of Sahametrei - on behalf of the King of Cambodia as part of his work with the Child Protection Unit (CPU), which is a Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) initiative. The award is the second highest honour available for non-Cambodian nationals, given for ‘distinguished services to the King and to the people of Cambodia’.

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The Cambodian Children’s Fund works to transform the country's most impoverished children into tomorrow's leaders, by delivering education, family support and community development programs into the heart of one of Cambodia’s most impoverished communities in Phnom Penh.

CCF set up the Child Protection Unit (CPU) in 2013 to investigate crimes committed against children, prosecute offenders and support child victims of crime. The CPU works in cooperation with the Cambodian National Police.

Nigel has been involved with the CPU since it began, assisting with the development of CPU staff and the Cambodian National Police. He designed and co-wrote two courses: ‘Child Abuse and Serious Crime Investigation’ and ‘Interviewing Child Victims’, both of which have become integral training tools for CPU staff and police officers.

His ‘Interviewing Child Victims’ course has helped developed the skills of female police officers specialising in interviewing child victims of sexual abuse. The course in particular has led to a change in the way evidence is delivered at Court from children who have been victims of abuse, leading to less re-traumatisation for the children. Nigel has also devised and co-written a practical guide for police officers taking statements from victims of sexual abuse, which aims to increase the standard of evidence gained from vulnerable victims. The courses have been assessed and fully accredited and are now fully supported by Solent University.

Since July 2013, the CPU has assisted over 1,400 victims of crimes against children, with an arrest rate of 89%.

Nigel was given the award by In Bora, Deputy National Police Chief and Director General of Central Criminal Department, following his attendance at a national crime initiative conference, an international homicide symposium - the first of its kind ever held in Cambodia – organised by the CPU in Phnom Penh, where he gave workshops on techniques for interviewing in child abuse cases including homicide suspects.

“I was humbled and honoured to receive this award,2 said Nigel. "Child protection is a major worldwide concern. I spent much of my police career investigating child abuse as well as being accredited to the highest level in interviewing suspects and witnesses available in the UK. To be able to pass on this knowledge, and play a small part in the CCF’s and CPU’s ongoing improvement and development of Cambodia’s police and judicial system is the least I can do. It is vital that we invest our time and technological advances to help stamp out those who seek to abuse and manipulate those who are not able to defend themselves.”

James McCabe, Director Operations at the CPU, said: "Nigel has been involved with the Child Protection Unit since it began. His experience and knowledge has been invaluable to our success, along with the development of best practices in police investigation and techniques in cases of child abuse in Cambodia. Nigel’s award was in recognition of his long-term commitment to helping the CPU and Cambodian National Police achieve our mission, and we are delighted for him."

Mr McCabe added: "The CPU has made a significant impact in tackling crimes against children in Cambodia and bringing to justice those who seek to hurt Cambodia’s vulnerable children. We look forward to working more with Nigel as our important job to keep Cambodia’s children safe continues."

Dr Simon Fox, Head of Law and Criminology at Solent University, said: “Nigel’s dedication to the area of child protection is highly commendable, he has developed essential guidance that has helped to improve the investigation of child abuse and how the victims of such abuse are treated. I am delighted that Nigel has been recognised for his sterling and unerring commitment to the field of child protection.”

Later this year, Nigel is starting a PhD study looking at factors in interfamilial homicide in Cambodia and how a change in policy and practice can reduce such crimes.