The Met Police has been warned it could put children in danger because of the way it investigates online abuse.
The police watchdog found probes into the viewing and sharing of indecent images did not focus quickly enough on identifying at-risk children.
Inspectors said in some cases there was a delay to alerting children’s social care as officers did not want to jeopardise investigations.
The force has been approached for comment.
‘Children at risk’
The report, by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), said there were cases where “officers delayed alerting children’s social care, because the child was living in a house with someone who was potentially uploading images of child abuse, and they did not want safeguarding to jeopardise their investigation”.
This, according to the report, “potentially leaves children at risk”.
It also found:
- Investigations of the viewing and sharing of indecent images of children did not focus enough on quickly identifying and protecting any children at risk from the offender
- There were “concerning delays” in uploading images to a national child abuse database which “potentially means victims are not identified and safeguarded as quickly as they should be”
- “Significant delays” in the forensic examination of electronic devices which could lead to “missed opportunities to identify abuse”
- Some officers and staff did not have the right experience or training for such investigations.
Inspector of constabulary Matt Parr said the force had made some progress and improvements on its work to keep children safe but the pace of change had at times been “slow”.
There was some praise for increasing the number of staff managing registered sex offenders and there was better recognition of the needs of vulnerable children coming into police custody.
“There is still much more work to do to provide better outcomes for vulnerable children in London – from more quickly identifying and protecting any children at risk from offenders, to undertaking a skills audit to identify what specialist training officers need,” Mr Parr said.
“We are assured that the Metropolitan Police has plans in place to continue making improvements and we will closely monitor their performance.
“If we think it is needed, we will increase our scrutiny of the force’s child protection services.”