Metropolitan Police not safeguarding children at risk of exploitation
By Sally Smith
His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has recently investigated the Metropolitan Police and found them lacking in relation to their procedures and responses to children at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation.
The report identified failings by the force to properly identify risk to children or to appreciate the link between children going missing and being victims of exploitation.
Examples were identified of insufficient efforts being made to speak to children:
“When these children did return home, the force frequently made no attempt to see them in-person or try to understand why they went missing.”
In our experience this lack of professional curiosity is sadly not uncommon in cases of this kind.
The HMIC were also very concerned by the frequency that victim-blaming language was used. It felt there was also a failure to understand potential risks to children, which could lead to them being left unprotected.
The report makes very depressing reading and mirrors the failings identified in multiple police forces across the country.
It’s almost 10 years since the publication of the Jay Report into failings in Rotherham. Yet forces are still found to be failing to take basic steps to safeguard some of the most vulnerable children in the areas they serve.
The findings of the report have resulted in an ‘accelerated cause of concern’ being issued to the Metropolitan Police. This requires them to take urgent action before 31 December 2023 to address the shortcomings identified.
The specific actions are:
- Those responsible for grading the risks to which each missing child is exposed are sufficiently trained
- Risks are appropriately assessed in all cases
- Cases of missing children are investigated effectively, from the first point of contact and the response is proportionate to the level of risk
Here in the Child Abuse department at Switalskis we regularly see evidence of missed opportunities by the police to protect children and examples where, had concerns and reports of grooming or mistreatment been taken seriously at the outset, further harm could have been avoided.
This is particularly true in relation to serial offenders or groups or gangs of people exploiting children where prompt action to investigate alleged perpetrators and disrupt criminal activity could have prevented harm to dozens of children and young people.