The BBC today report that the Metropolitan Police are putting children in London at risk because of “serious failings” in the way they deal with abuse. Almost 75% of the cases investigated had been poorly handled according to HMIC Inspectors.
Worryingly, Assistant Commissioner, Martin Hewitt, attempted to pass the blame. He said that child protection “often involves complex social problems which cannot be solved by police alone”.
No one is expecting the police to solve all of society’s problems. What we do however expect is that the police do their job properly. Time and time again they are failing to do this. It is indefensible for a police force to fail in 75% of its investigations into such a serious area.
The findings of the Inspectorate of Constabulary in relation to the Metropolitan Police simply echo failing across the country. One of the main themes in the Rochdale child abuse scandals was a failure by the various authorities including Greater Manchester Police to investigate the crimes properly. There was a failure of the various bodies involved in child protection to work together and this is repeated in the Metropolitan Police where the Inspectorate found “an indefensible lack of leadership in child protection with no single officer in charge”.
The continued failure to investigate these matters properly by the police is leaving the most vulnerable in society at risk.
Last week I settled a claim against a Local Authority recovering substantial damages for a victim of child sexual exploitation. We contended that Social Services had failed to protect the Claimant as a child and that as a result for a number of years she was exposed to abuse at the hands of paedophile gangs in the Manchester area.
The frustration in the case is that Greater Manchester Police were far more at fault than Social Services. They had repeatedly failed to act when provided with names of abusers and the registration numbers of their vehicles. They had dismissed repeated complaints by the client’s mother and grandmother and allowed the abuse to continue. It was seen as a “lifestyle choice”.
I have other clients who have repeatedly reported abuse which the police have failed to investigate. In one particular case when they did finally investigate an alleged rape they lost the victims clothing and therefore the forensic evidence and the prosecution failed. This victim went on to suffer further abuse for a number of years.
The problem in this country is that the police are immune from civil liability. We regularly secure substantial damages awards from Local Authorities who have let down victims in their child protection role but the recent decision in the case of Michaels effectively prevents the police from being sued for damages by the people they have let down. There are still some very restricted areas under the Human Rights Act where damages can be recovered but largely the police are immune.
This cannot be fair. Not only does it prevent victims recovering damages to which they should be entitled from a public body that has failed them but it also reduces the accountability of the police. If I make a mistake in my job I would be sued for professional negligence. If a Midwife makes a mistake whilst delivering a baby she will be sued for clinical negligence. If a Social Worker fails in his or her child protection duties the Local Authority will face a damages claim. Why should the police be any different?
This most recent investigation by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary only goes to further highlight the extent to which the vulnerable in our society are being failed by the police.
To pursue a claim for child abuse, please contact our experienced solicitors at Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or complete our online contact form.