Damning report finds Derbyshire Police failing to protect vulnerable children

A watchdog has found Derbyshire Police is failing to protect vulnerable children - missing opportunities to safeguard those at risk of sexual exploitation.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 7:46 am
Updated Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 9:31 am
An inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has found “urgent changes are needed”

An inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has called for “urgent changes”.

The report - published today following a May inspection - found examples of the police failing to place vulnerable children at a high enough risk level, leading to poor information sharing with other agencies.

Inspectors spoke of a “confused” response to missing children - where in some cases children missing from care homes were not recorded, meaning they were not looked for.

The police were also found to have a “disjointed” approach to protecting vulnerable children at risk of being exploited by county lines gangs.

While there was evidence that police officers - particularly online crime investigators - failed to recognise their role in safeguarding children.

In one example the constabulary assessed three children living with a man who distributed online images of child sexual abuse as “medium risk”.

However 14 weeks after the beginning of an investigation - at the time of the inspection - nothing had been done to safeguard the children, leaving them at risk of “significant harm”.

Another shocking case study told how a 14-year-old boy shared an “indecent” video of his 13-year-old girlfriend with friends after they had argued - however two months went by before police spoke to him.

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Nor was any attempt made to seize the phone for forensics or to remove the video.

Addressing concerns over the force’s procedures for missing children the report described how a 17-year-old girl with a “long history” of being sexually exploited went missing with a 33-year-old male known to the police for child abduction.

The girl - in the care of the local authority - had gone missing from her supported accommodation. She was located and the male was arrested.

However the investigation “stalled” and was closed - two weeks later she went missing again and was drugged and sexually-assaulted by the same offender.

Speaking about the report Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Roy Wilsher said: “Derbyshire Constabulary 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.

“There is much more work to do to provide better outcomes for vulnerable children in Derbyshire – from improving how the force protects children at risk of exploitation to recognising that children missing from care homes are particularly vulnerable.

“We have made several recommendations which will help improve outcomes for children if Derbyshire Constabulary acts on them.

“We will continue to work closely with the force to monitor its progress.”

Today Derbyshire Police announced a raft of measures to tackle the damming finding - focusing on “identifying and safeguarding victims first and foremost”.

Chief Constable Rachel Swann said the force had now “bolstered” resources helping reduce a backlog and improving the quality of investigations.

She said: “As Chief Constable I am accountable for ensuring our service to the public is the best it can be and as such we have responded to their recommendations and taken swift action.

“I welcome the independent scrutiny - which has shown that there are areas where collectively we have got to do better.”

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