Police bungle HALF of online child abuse cases: Examination of serious allegations was ‘superficial’ and basic police work not carried out, damning reports find
- Experts say that 38 per cent of investigations involving vulnerable children are riddled with ‘inconsistencies’
- While half of police probes into child abuse on the internet branded ‘inadequate’ in series of reports
- In some cases, basic police work such as taking photographs of the scene were not undertaken
More than half of police investigations into child abuse on the internet are branded ‘inadequate’ by a damning series of reports published today.
Experts also say that 38 per cent of probes into all cases involving vulnerable children are riddled with ‘weaknesses and inconsistencies’.
In many cases investigations into child abuse or neglect were poor and plagued by delay, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary concluded.
Researchers found that the examination of serious allegations by officers were ‘superficial’ and crucial leads were not pursued.
More than half of police investigations into child abuse on the internet are branded ‘inadequate’ by a damning series of reports published today
In some cases, basic police work such as taking photographs of the scene, analysing mobile phones, or referring a child for medical attention were not undertaken.
During interviews with children, officers used ‘oppressive questioning’ techniques and in some cases were hostile towards the victims they were meant to be helping.
The findings are from three HMIC reports which warn that the police must reassess their approach to child protection or risk failing a new generation.
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Thomas Winsor said: ‘The police need to learn lessons from the past and improve the prevention and detection of such crimes.
‘Forces need to recognise and protect children at risk and treat cases of child sexual exploitation as a strong indicator of an extremely serious and prevalent problem, rather than isolated incidents to be investigated and brought to justice.
‘The sufferings of children, and the risks that other children will endure them in the future, are of the highest and gravest concerns of the whole community.
‘It is the duty of every member of that community, particularly the police and the other agencies of the state, to intensify their efforts to ensure that everything is done to rescue children from the perils of abuse, sexual exploitation and neglect which are so prevalent in society, risks which are intensified by the dark applications of modern technology. Their cries are the indictments of us all.’
A total of 576 cases involving vulnerable children across eight forces in England and Wales were examined by HMIC.
Of these only 177 were found to have been dealt with to a good standard, while 220 were viewed as inadequate and 179 were deemed as adequate.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless described the reports as ‘a damning indictment’ of police forces
Meanwhile, of the 124 case files involving online child abuse, 52per cent were judged as inadequate or requiring improvement.
The HMIC found that police sometimes failed to interview children on their own in order to ascertain their safety and too often were happy to take the view of the parent or guardian.
They failed to bring in an ‘appropriate adult’ or a social worker to sit with vulnerable children during some interviews.
In one case police and social services decided, without consulting a medic, that the likely cause of vaginal bleeding in a four-year-old was eczema even though the child had made sexual allegations against a family member.
The inspectors also heard that children were accused of lying when reporting an allegation of sexual assault.
‘We found limited evidence that the police listened to children and poor attitudes towards vulnerable children persisted in some teams,’ researchers concluded.
‘We also found that investigations were often inadequate, with insufficient action taken to disrupt and apprehend some perpetrators.’
The three reports, which examined the nationwide police response to child abuse since the start of 2014, highlighted further failures after the interview stage.
There were delays in submit phones and computers for forensic analysis, leading to long delays for the results which hampered investigations.
In one case a woman claimed that her partner had indecent images of children on his computer following his arrest for a domestic assault in March 2011.
In interview, he admitted the assault but he denied having indecent images of children on his computer.
His computer was seized by police at the time, but it took officers three years to establish that there were such images on his PC. By this time the suspect had fled to the Czech Republic.
Researchers found that officers took too long in passing cases to the Crown Prosecution Service which lead to delays over whether suspects should be charged.
Such delays increased the risk of children being abused further and also lead to them losing confidence in the police.
NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless described the reports as ‘a damning indictment’ of police forces.
He said: ‘Despite national commitments and the dedication of officers tackling these darkest of crimes, at a local level vital opportunities to protect children are being missed by the police.’
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