Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has today published a report looking into how police forces across the country respond to reports of missing children.
The HMIC report refers to inconsistencies between forces, from assessing risk to investigating and supporting children.
In response, Detective Chief Inspector Steve Bean, the force lead for Missing Persons and chair of the Child Sexual Exploitation & Missing Children sub-group of the Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board, says that people in the county should be reassured with the way that missing children cases are handled here.
He said "When the new definitions of ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ were introduced, we made the decision in this county that children would not be categorised as ‘absent’ under any circumstances - and that’s a decision that I firmly stand by. There are inherent risks with anyone aged under 18, by the simple fact that they are a child and vulnerable by virtue of their age.We will therefore always classify them as ‘missing’ and instigate an immediate policing response, appropriate to the circumstances of their disappearance.
"Missing persons investigations can be an extremely challenging area of police work, particularly so with children, and there are often very complex underlying factors involved; factors such as bullying, mental health and emotional or self-esteem issues, substance misuse, academic pressure and sometimes even crimes, such as physical assaults and sexual abuse/exploitation.
"We therefore treat each report very seriously. Whilst the police will deal with the initial report, search and location of any child reported missing, there is then a coordinated, multi-agency response to identify those children most at risk and put in place suitable plans to intervene, safeguard and support that child in the future. There certainly isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. The force has a dedicated Missing Persons coordinator, who facilitates these plans and ensures that partner agencies are working together in the best interests of the child. We welcome the recommendations of the HMIC report and are always receptive to any feedback that may assist us in improving our response.”