Devon and Cornwall Police has improved how it protects children, however challenges remain - HMIC

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has today published a post-inspection review on the child protection work carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police.

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Devon and Cornwall Police National child protection inspection: post-inspection review

As part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales, HMIC published an initial report in July 2015, on the child protection work of Devon and Cornwall Police. This found that, despite a clear commitment to protecting children, there were areas of concern that meant children were not receiving the service they deserve.

HMIC carried out a post-inspection review in April 2016, and was pleased to find:

  • the force has made some improvements in relation to how it recognises and responds to child sexual exploitation (CSE), including the introduction of a risk-based tracking process to provide regular oversight and scrutiny of children identified as being at risk, and how it monitors the implementation of protective plans;
  • improvements in the force’s referral and risk assessment processes, including the development of a dedicated central safeguarding team to assess more effectively and identify risks to vulnerable children; and
  • the force has implemented a programme to provide additional vulnerability training to all frontline staff, as a result of which these staff have greater awareness of the link between those who regularly go missing from home and CSE.

However, inspectors were concerned to find:

  • unnecessary delays in some child protection investigations allocated to non-specialist teams, because additional risk, which required a more specialist approach, was not highlighted at the earliest opportunity;
  • in some cases the risk of a child being sexually exploited was not always responded to quickly enough – some children were still being reported missing a considerable number of times before any meaningful intervention;
  • the force’s arrangements for dealing with children in custody still requires improvement, as currently too many children are still being detained in police custody unnecessarily. For things to improve, the force needs to liaise effectively with local authorities to identify suitable alternative accommodation.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“Following our second inspection, it was clear that Devon and Cornwall Police is committed to improving how it protects children. We found examples of good practice in how it recognises and responds to child sexual exploitation, and its risk assessment of vulnerable children. However, the force still faces challenges which it must overcome to ensure children are protected in all areas.

“We found delays to child protection investigations, as well as delays in responding to cases where children were at risk of sexual exploitation. These delays can result in children being at risk of significant harm, and need to be addressed promptly. The force also needs to improve how it liaises with local authorities, in order to prevent children being detained unnecessarily in police custody.

“Although there are areas of concern, we are encouraged by the progress the force has made in other areas, and HMIC will continue monitor its performance closely.”

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Devon and Cornwall Police National child protection inspection: post-inspection review


  1. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. The reports are intended to provide information for the police, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) and the public on how well children are protected and their needs are met, and to secure improvements for the future.
  2. Under the National Child Protection Inspection (NCPI) programme, HMIC will assess how effectively each force in England and Wales safeguards children and young people at risk, make recommendations to forces for improving child protection practice, highlight effective practice in child protection work and drive improvements in forces’ child protection practice.
  3. Follow up activity by HMIC is an integral part of the NCPI programme. It allows inspectors to assess the progress each force is making in its work to improve services for the safety and protection of children. HMIC aims to revisit each force no later than six months after the publication of the initial NCPI inspection report to assess how it is managing the implementation of the recommendations.
  4. In July 2015, HMIC published ‘In harm’s way: the role of the police in keeping children safe’ – based on findings from 21 inspections on the police response to child protection conducted over the last two years. This incorporates inspections from the first eight forces inspected under the NCPI programme.
  5. HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
  6. For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
  7. HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.