West Mercia Police inspected on child protection
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has today published an inspection report into the child protection work carried out by West Mercia Police, following an inspection in November 2014. This is part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales.
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Protecting children is one of the most important tasks the police undertake. Only the police can investigate suspected crimes and arrest perpetrators, and they play a significant role in monitoring sex offenders. Police officers have the power to take a child who is in danger into a place of safety, or to seek an order to restrict an offender’s contact with children. The police service also has a significant role working with other agencies to ensure the child’s protection and well-being, longer term.
Inspectors were pleased to find:
- a clear commitment to improving services for vulnerable people, including children in need of protection;
- allegations about child abuse were responded to promptly;
- specialist teams were sensitive and skilled in their questioning of children who were very young or who had learning or mental health difficulties;
- rigorous supervision of registered sex offenders.
However, inspectors were concerned to find:
- in difficult or more complex cases, investigations were poorly planned, insufficiently thorough and unnecessarily prolonged;
- recognising and responding to child sexual exploitation was weak;
- although improving, too many children were being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight; and
- in cases that were allocated to non-specialist teams, enquiries and investigations were undertaken by insufficiently skilled and knowledgeable staff.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Dru Sharpling said:
“West Mercia Police is clearly committed to improving child protection services and has invested in new structures, specialist teams and resources to improve the timeliness of investigations.”
“Despite this commitment, West Mercia Police needs to improve in a number of areas. We found that the initial response to child protection issues was sometimes slow, and that investigations were not always of the highest quality. We also found that there were significant delays in some investigations, which can have a negative impact on the child. The force also needs to make sure staff who undertake child protection work are sufficiently skilled.
“We recommend that West Mercia improves the way it works with other agencies like the Local Safeguarding Children Board, as this will help to reduce the instances of children being taken into custody. Stronger relationships with these agencies will also improve the force’s approach to tackling child sexual exploitation.
“I encourage West Mercia Police to act on our recommendations as a matter of urgency, and have asked that within six weeks it provides us with an action plan to demonstrate how it will take forward these recommendations.”
Over the next two years 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.
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- 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.
- 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.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217 729.