A recent report by the Inspectorate of Constabulary considered 576 cases across eight forces. The report has concluded that in 220 cases there was an ‘inadequate’ response and that there were significant ‘weaknesses and inconsistencies’ at all stages of the child protection system.
The report, entitled ‘In harm’s way: The role of the police in keeping children safe’, considered the conduct of investigations involving claims of abuse and neglect by forces in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Nottingham, Norfolk, South Yorkshire, West Midlands, Dyfed-Powys, and West Mercia. It considered 576 cases dating back to 2013. Of those; 177 were found to have investigated to a good standard, 179 were considered adequate, and 220 were viewed as inadequate.
Within the 220 cases there were concerns in respect of evidence that some officers had accused the children involved of crimes, instead of treating them as a potential victim of abuse. All too often there were considerable delays in gathering evidence and too little was done in some cases to arrest suspects.
In one particular case, the police had taken it upon themselves to liaise with Social Services and jointly agree that the likely cause of a four year old’s vaginal bleeding was eczema despite the fact that the child had made allegations of sexual abuse against a family member. Neither the Police, nor Social Services, sought advice from a medical practitioner before coming to this conclusion.
The leader into the Inspectorate report, Dru Sharpling, stated that in most cases police were being ‘reactive rather than proactive’ in their approach to investigations. She also raised concerns that there was now too much ‘bureaucracy in the system’ and that perhaps police officers were not listening to children as a result, instead becoming more concerned with ticking boxes and filling forms.
The Home Office and independent organisations have also raised concerns and the overall consensus appears to be that an immediate change must be made into the way that Police forces deal with these types of cases. The Home Office have promised to ensure that resources are made available to allow police forces to improve.
We have a number of ongoing claims against the police in respect of their failures in investigating allegations made regarding abuse and neglect. Certainly for the clients that we represent, this report is too little too late. Coming forward and reporting abuse takes a lot of courage and strength, to then be ignored or even accused of a committing a crime in response is disgraceful and should not be taken lightly.
If you have been the victim of abuse and wish to discuss in confidence how our specialist Abuse Team can assist please do not hesitate to contact us on 0845 050 1958, alternatively please complete an online enquiry form.