'Mixed success' for police response to child exploitation

Published on Monday, 11 November 2013 11:20
Written by Daniel Mason

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that South Yorkshire Police has committed to tackling child sexual exploitation; however, an inconsistent approach at district level gives inspectors serious concern about the quality of protection children receive.

The South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Shaun Wright, commissioned HMIC to assess the effectiveness of South Yorkshire Police's approach to protecting children from sexual exploitation, and to develop recommendations for improvements.

The inspection found that the PCC and the Chief Constable had both made it clear that preventing and responding to child sexual exploitation is a top priority for the force. As a result, between January and March 2013 the force trained all of its 1,700 frontline staff in relation to child sexual exploitation. In addition, all the officers and staff working in child protection were clearly deeply committed to their work. They were conscientious, enthusiastic, and focused on achieving good outcomes for the children with whom they work.

Overall, however, the evident efforts to improve the force's response to child sexual exploitation have had mixed success – and in particular, had not been consistently translated into operational activity on the ground at a local (i.e. district) level:

  • many of the staff interviewed for this inspection felt that the emphasis from senior and middle local managers was still more on dealing with offences such as burglary and vehicle crime, rather than child sexual exploitation;
  • local resources – such as the teams which gather and analyse intelligence on different kinds of offending – were not fully supporting child sexual exploitation investigations; and
  • while there are pockets of good and effective practice (most noticeably, in Sheffield City), the approach taken to tackling this kind of offending varies significantly across the four districts.

HMIC is particularly concerned that a small number of the case files reviewed in the inspection were not complete. As a result, the force is unable to assess whether child victims are receiving the best possible levels of care and support.

HMIC therefore has made a series of recommendations, aimed at ensuring all children in South Yorkshire receive the best possible levels of protection and support from the police – regardless of where in the county they live.

Roger Baker, HM Inspector of Constabulary for the Northern Region said:

"HMIC recognises the commitment of the PCC and chief constable to making child sexual exploitation a force priority. However, we have concerns that this is not properly being disseminated across local policing districts, and that as a result, children are not always being adequately protected.

"This situation must not be allowed to continue. It is unarguably of paramount importance that all children in South Yorkshire receive the same high levels of protection, regardless of the policing district in which they live."

Source: HMIC

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