Derbyshire Police must improve child protection, watchdog warns

Posted: 1st August 2022

Police in Derbyshire “urgently” need to improve the way they look after vulnerable children, a report has said.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) examined the force in May.

It said officers “aren’t consistently providing either the quality of service or a good enough response”.

Chief Constable Rachel Swann said the force had made changes but she recognised things needed to improve.

‘Disjointed approach’

The report stated a range of risks to vulnerable children and young adults in Derbyshire, including county lines drug gangs and exploitation.

It said different teams were responsible for assessing children depending on location and the level of risk.

In some cases children who went missing from children’s homes were not searched for as “constabulary practice meant they weren’t recorded as missing”, with the report noting “none of the 11 children who were reported as missing from care homes on 30 April 2021 were looked for by police”.

“There is a disjointed approach within the force to reducing child vulnerability,” it said.

“The assessment process used for exploitation risk isn’t always effective.

“Some children who are clearly at high risk are not getting the right level of response from the police or the organisations the police work with.”

Child protection is at the heart of modern policing.

It’s a decade since Derbyshire Police made headlines for investigating child sexual exploitation, after two high-profile inquiries called Operation Retriever and Operation Kern.

So this new inspection makes difficult reading for the force, and Chief Constable Rachel Swann hasn’t wasted any time trying to put things right.

Ms Swann told me she’s “very concerned” and she “absolutely accepts” the findings of a “very critical” report.

So does Ms Swann accept children in Derbyshire were failed by Derbyshire Police?

The report “is clear there are vast improvements that need to be made”, Ms Swann says, but “we have made some of those improvements already and we are committed to carrying on”.

The report’s recommendations included reviewing missing children procedures and improving supervision of child protection investigations, and inspectors said the force should publish an action plan within six weeks.

HMICFRS added it was “encouraged to note the constabulary was planning to increase the numbers of detectives and specially trained officers”.

Roy Wilsher, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary said the force “is not effectively safeguarding children and it urgently needs to improve its child protection arrangements”.

“The force’s new senior leadership team recognise that these changes are needed,” he added.

Ms Swann confirmed the force had recruited more detectives “to support the workload of the frontline” and was “developing a joint action plan” with other agencies.

Citing recent changes to the way officers share information with agencies and are trained in child protection, she said: “My officers and staff work extremely hard and are committed to keeping people safe and working with our partners to reduce the threat of harm to the public.

“I recognise that there are things that we can improve.

“We have changed our approach and attitude to dealing with online child protection, focusing on identifying and safeguarding victims first and foremost, and we have bolstered our resources, which is already helping to reduce an outstanding backlog and improve the quality of investigations.

“All the steps we have taken seek to ensure we are listening to the voice of the child, understanding the risks posed to them and that we are providing a consistent level of service.”

Source:Derbyshire Police must improve child protection, watchdog warns – BBC News

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