Police Chiefs “We are at a crossroads in how we deal with child abuse”
The National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) has responded to a critical report by an Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) report on child protection published today.
The NPCC (formely ACPO) – the national ‘voice’ of local police chiefs, say the police need to fundamentally change their approach to child protection so that their “absolute focus is on working proactively with other agencies to protect the public from harm committed on or offline.”
The HMIC report says police in Wales and England are failing to carry out effective investigations into allegations of child abuse and must reassess their approach to child protection, or risk failing another generation.
The report looked at 576 cases involving vulnerable children in Norfolk, South Yorkshire, West Midlands, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Nottingham, Dyfed-Powys and West Mercia forces.
The police watchdog found investigations into child abuse were often poor, responses to online grooming and domestic abuse inadequate and plagued by delay.
HMI Dru Sharpling, who led the inspections, said:
“Children must come first – there can be no compromise when it comes to child protection. Getting it right most of the time can never be the explanation for failures that have devastating consequences for the child, carers and families.
“Dealing with child protection cases can be enormously challenging and complex. There is no question of this, nor that there are officers out there who are dedicated and passionate in protecting children and bringing perpetrators of abuse to justice.
“The abuse and neglect of children is not new, but the scale of current and non-recent sexual abuse revealed by recent investigations has shocked the nation. Although the police don’t deal with these issues in isolation, they need to lead the way in tackling this societal scourge and prioritise work, not according to workload, but with the welfare of the child as the priority.
“Future generations will judge us according to the action we take now.”
In response the National Policing Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said:
“The scale of child sexual abuse is staggering. By the end of 2015, we anticipate that police will be investigating over 70,000 cases of child sexual abuse; an increase of 88 per cent from 2012.
“HMIC’s reports today find that, ‘protecting vulnerable people is a priority for all police forces, and considerable efforts and resources have been allocated to this end.’ But demand is rising and there is still much more to do to provide the best service.
“We are at a crossroads. We have got to fundamentally change our approach to policing so that our absolute focus is on working proactively with other agencies to protect the public from harm committed on or offline. This requires a cultural shift away from largely reactive policing that targets acquisitive crime with success measured by crime statistics and conviction rates. It must be supported by all agencies that work with children getting better at spotting signs of abuse, cruelty or neglect and intervening early to prevent harm.
“Police chiefs must lead this change but no one should underestimate how much of a transformation this is. Changing the culture of 43 individual organisations with between 44,000 and 1,800 people working in them does take time. I’ll be talking to colleagues at the next Chief Constables’ Council about how we build on the improvements we’ve already made and make the further changes necessary so that we are protecting children from harm consistently across the country.”
North Wales has seen a huge increase in the number of offenders coming before the courts, from high-profile cases such as Operation Pallial the investigation into abuse in north Wales care home system, which has seen a man from Connah’s Quay found guilty only last week of sex offences against boys under the age of 16, to a string of other child sexual abuse cases in recent months from the downloading and distribution of illegal images to rape.
Tip of the iceberg
Home Secretary Theresa May warned last November the level of child abuse exposed so far is only the “tip of the iceberg”
Analysis by the National Crime Agency (NCA) has revealed around one in 35 adult males poses a potential risk of being a child abuser or of seeking out child sex images online.
Phil Gormley, the deputy director general of the NCA said: ‘We are starting to get a real sense of the scale.’ and figures based on academic research figures suggest 250,000 men in the UK are sexually attracted to children under the age of 12.
The College of Policing are revising training for specialist investigators to take account of modern forms of abuse such as child sexual exploitation, online grooming and honour-based abuse. They are also delivering training packages for all new recruits and frontline staff.
The HMIC’s say child protection inspections demonstrate an ‘under-recognition and underestimation’ of risks.
The reports warn that if the child protection system is in some cases struggling to manage the current demands made of it, it will not cope with a greater number of cases which are likely to be uncovered in the future.
The HMIC Reports published today:
Public Notice Advert