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Inspectors have warned that the police service should change its culture to prioritise child protection after reports revealed that more than a third of police investigations involving vulnerable children were deemed inadequate.
Upon reviewing a series of three reports, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said the service must better respond to the large scale of child abuse in society and reject target-driven policing.
Dru Sharpling of HMIC, said: “The old methods of policing, which relied on a target-driven approach where what mattered was what was counted – an approach which still permeates policing today – must be driven from the policing culture once and for all. Children must be placed at the heart of what policing does next.”
In one report, entitled Online and On the Edge: Real risks in the Virtual World into Online Abuse, HMIC found that 52 per cent of the 124 case files examined across six forces were either inadequate or needed to be improved.
In many instances, it was revealed that officers did not believe the child’s claims, while in others it was found that children were arrested and accused of lying when reporting an offence of sexual assault.
In response to the report, Simon Bailey, the police lead on child abuse, said: “We have got to fundamentally change our approach to policing so that our absolute focus is on working proactively with other agencies to protect the public from harm committed on or offline.
“This requires a cultural shift away from largely reactive policing that targets acquisitive crime with success measured by crime statistics and conviction rates. It must be supported by all agencies that work with children getting better at spotting signs of abuse, cruelty or neglect and intervening early to prevent harm.”
Upon further inspecting the reports, it was also shown that in one case, police and social services agreed that the cause of vaginal bleeding in a four-year-old was eczema, despite not consulting a doctor and amidst sexual allegations made by the child against a family member.
What’s more, another case revealed that it took police services three months to interview a man whose nine-year-old grandson had accused him of rape.
Karen Bradley, home office minister, said that steps are being taken to prioritise child sexual abuse as a national threat, safeguard children and to share best practice.
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