Devon and Cornwall Police is committed to improving child protection however has progress to make in important areas, such as child sexual exploitation

HMIC has today published an inspection report into the child protection work carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police, following an inspection carried out in May 2015. This is part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales.

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Devon and Cornwall – National child protection inspection

Inspectors were pleased to find:

  • a clear commitment to improving services for children in need of protection;
  • staff responsible for managing child abuse investigations were committed and dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes for children;
  • officers responded quickly and undertook thorough initial enquires about the immediate safety of children; and
  • good relationships with local authorities and other partner agencies, and full engagement with the work to develop better provision for children with mental health issues.

However, inspectors were concerned to find:

  • a lack of understanding of the extent of child sexual exploitation and an inconsistent response across the force area;
  • the protection of some children who regularly go missing from home was inconsistent. Although the initial response to locate the child is often good, early intervention and long-term inter-agency planning is often ineffective;
  • in some serious cases that were allocated to non-specialist teams, enquiries and investigations were undertaken by insufficiently skilled and knowledgeable staff; and
  • children were still being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight, although the number of children being detained by the force had reduced.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said:

“Devon and Cornwall Police demonstrated a strong commitment to improving services for the protection of vulnerable people. However, while we found a number of examples of good work to protect children, this commitment has not yet resulted in consistently improved outcomes for children.

“We found some good examples of the force protecting children who were most in need of help with positive multi-agency work and a child-centred approach. We were pleased to find that the force had invested time and resource to create multi-agency places of safety, for both children and adults, where proper support and accommodation can be offered to those suffering with mental health problems.

“However, there were also areas that require improvement. We were concerned to find that in a significant number of cases we looked at, poor supervision and record keeping had undermined decision making and safeguarding measures. Some serious cases were investigated by non-specialist officers, resulting in delays, and potential risks posed by alleged offenders not being considered.

“The force must also improve how it tackles child sexual exploitation. While the force is taking some steps to address this, it still has much more to do to demonstrate that it is able to effectively identify and safeguard children at risk. We found a concerning case involving a 15 year old girl who, in August 2014, was identified at being at risk of exploitation by an older man. We found no evidence that a longer-term safeguarding plan had been put in place to protect the girl from further exploitation and, at the time of the inspection, the girl still had not been spoken to by police. This is not acceptable.

“The response to children who regularly go missing from home also requires improvement, with a particular focus on early intervention and ensuring that officers and staff understand the link between children who regularly go missing and the risk of sexual exploitation.

“We have asked Devon and Cornwall Police to provide us with an action plan within six weeks setting out how it will respond to our recommendations.”

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Devon and Cornwall – National child protection inspection


  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. 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.
  4. A copy of the full report can be found at from 00:01 22 September 2015.
  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.