Inspection of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s child protection services reveals a mixed picture

Hertfordshire Constabulary is committed to keeping children safe from harm, according to a new report.

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Hertfordshire – National child protection inspection

In its first ever inspection into the force’s child protection arrangements in September 2019, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) identified that the force’s commitment to, and prioritisation of, child safeguarding has resulted in several examples of positive practice and procedure.

As detailed in the subsequent report, these areas of good practice included:

  • effective systems in its control room to identify risk and prioritise its response to the most vulnerable;
  • working with partner organisations to engage directly with children; and
  • appropriate use of police powers (in all the cases audited by the Inspectorate).

However, HMICFRS also noted that there are several problems, including:

  • inconsistent training, such as delays in providing specialist training;
  • an inconsistent response to missing children; and
  • concerns around custody, such as a lack of understanding of the thresholds for providing alternative accommodation.

The report noted significant concerns around the force’s referrals process. For example, reports referred to the force through multi-agency safeguarding hubs were processed inefficiently. There were no processes to identify repeat perpetrators or victims.

Many of these problems stemmed from wider inconsistencies in how the force records information. Officers and staff were often unable to access clear information on referrals. Recording of child sexual exploitation cases was substandard. In addition, strategy meetings, the use of protection powers and the testimony of children themselves often went unrecorded.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said:

“It is crucial that the police can identify children at risk of exploitation, so that they can intervene as early as possible. If forces cannot do that, the child has a much greater risk of being mentally or physically harmed.

“Our inspection of Hertfordshire Constabulary’s child protection services revealed many positives. The force prioritises child protection and is deeply committed to keeping vulnerable children safe. This commitment is evident in the force’s organisational, strategic and operational boards, at which child safeguarding is a clear priority.

“Hertfordshire Constabulary has invested in a specialist command dedicated to child protection and safeguarding. Its strengths include an impressive collaboration with children’s social care services to form a multi-agency joint child protection investigation team, which is based at police headquarters.

“Unfortunately, we also saw areas which require improvement. Our report highlights concerns ranging from the quality and availability of training, to poor record keeping, to a lack of feedback and supervision.

“We identified specific concerns with regards to the force’s Public Protection Unit. In addition to a significant backlog of cases, we noted an inconsistent approach to enforcement and management of registered sex offenders. As with other units, recording was also an issue. There was also no obvious performance management system in place, with little attempt to gather performance data.

“The senior leaders, staff and officers working for Hertfordshire Constabulary are clearly committed to protecting vulnerable children. I look forward to seeing further improvements in this critically important area. HMICFRS will check on the forces progress as it works to make these improvements.”

Get the report

Hertfordshire – 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.