A series of inspections of police forces in England and Wales has found worrying levels of inadequate investigations into child abuse and neglect, plagued by drift and delay.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said it’s findings demonstrate an under-recognition and under-estimation of the risk to children and warns of a danger of failing a an entire generation unless there a complete re-assessment of approach.
Examples found includes a case where it took three months to interview a man whose nine-year-old grandson accused him of rape, and another where police and social workers decided the cause of vaginal bleedings in a four-year-old girl was eczema, despite the child alleging she’d been abused by a family member.
An analysis of nearly 600 cases across eight forces found 38 per cent of investigations were classified as ‘inadequate.’
There are predicted to be an estimated 70,000 investigations into child abuse in 2015 – an 88 per cent rise from 2012.
HMI Dru Sharpling said the increase means “police will have to adapt to a substantial new challenge”.
“The old methods of policing, which relied on a target driven approach where what mattered was what counted – an approach which still permeates policing today – must be driven from the policing culture once and for all.
“Children must be placed at the heart of what policing does next.”
National lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey said policing is at a “crossroads” and there needs to be a “massive cultural change” where there’s a move away “from an obsession with acquisitive crime to making vulnerability the priority.”
He added: “Police chiefs must lead this change but no one should underestimate how much of a transformation this is.”
Another chief constable told me: “We are now in an age where people are paying to have a child raped or abused in front of them over the internet.
“The web has unleashed a monster driven by depravity and we have to deal with it.”