Durham Constabulary is "clearly committed" to child protection, but further work is required, finds inspectorate

Durham Constabulary is generally effective at keeping vulnerable children safe from harm, according to a new report. However, several problems mean that the force is not as effective at child protection as it could be.

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Durham – National child protection inspection

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) carried out its first inspection into Durham Constabulary’s child protection services in late 2019. The Inspectorate found that the force prioritised child protection matters, and praised its officers and staff for their commitment and dedication.

Whilst this commitment has translated into a variety of positive outcomes for children at risk of harm, HMICFRS identified several inconsistencies and areas for improvement. Although there are effective systems in the force’s control room, which allowed it to identify risk and prioritise response towards the most vulnerable, broader risks to other children are not always recognised.

Today’s report highlighted several other examples of good practice, including:

  • well-structured governance and oversight procedures for child protection matters, across all five regional commands;
  • good use of body-worn video when responding to incidents involving risk to children;
  • consistently good engagement with local young people, and a clear focus on diverting children at risk of offending away from crime.

However, the report did also highlight several areas of concern, including:

  • an inconsistent response to missing children;
  • management of registered sex offenders by neighbourhood officers, with visits going overdue and sometimes completed by untrained officers;
  • a failure to collect and record information to ensure that there is a focus and understanding of each child’s needs and risks; and
  • underdeveloped approaches to collecting performance information (which would allow the force to evaluate its child protection arrangements).

HM Inspector of Constabulary Phil Gormley said:

“Keeping children safe from harm is one of the police’s most important duties. Our national child protection inspections, which we have been running since 2014, allow us to see how effective police forces at protecting children.

“Our inspection of Durham Constabulary identified many positive features. For example, officers and staff have a good understanding of child sexual exploitation, as well as how to use their powers appropriately. The force should be proud of these achievements.

“We were also pleased to see that, unlike many other forces, the Constabulary was not currently reporting any delays in investigating electronic devices.

“We did, however, also see some instances of poor practice and procedure. In particular, we are concerned about how the force manages those who pose a risk to children. Delays in case management, overreliance on certain teams and minimal oversight from supervisory officers all have a negative effect on risk management.

“We have therefore recommended that the Constabulary immediately review its procedures for management of registered sex offenders, especially with regards to low and medium-risk offenders.

“We have requested that Durham Constabulary provide us with an action plan, within six weeks, on how they will implement the recommendations contained in our report. In addition, we will undertake a follow-up inspection of Durham Constabulary within the next six months.”

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Durham – National child protection inspection


  1. HMICFRS is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing and fire and rescue services in the public interest. It assesses and reports on the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces and fire and rescue services.
  2. HMICFRS inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing and law enforcement bodies. It also publishes data and thematic reports on areas of particular interest.
  3. Since 2017, HMICFRS been responsible for inspecting all 45 fire and rescue services in England.
  4. Under the National Child Protection Inspection (NCPI) programme, HMICFRS 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.
  5. Follow up activity by HMICFRS 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.
  6. For further information, HMICFRS’s press office can be contacted from 9.00am – 5:00pm Monday to Friday on 07836 217729.
  7. HMICFRS’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.