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Vulnerable children left at risk by police so detectives can investigate paedophiles

Written by on 31/08/2021

Vulnerable children are being left at risk from paedophiles because detectives do not want to jeopardise their investigations, says the police watchdog.

It accuses Britain’s biggest force – the Metropolitan Police – of making slow progress in child protection and says it has “acute concerns” over how detectives investigate online child abuse and the use of indecent images.

In a report Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) highlights delays in identifying victims and examining phones and computers and found that some specialist staff were inexperienced and untrained.

The HMICFRS said: “The inspectorate saw cases where police investigators delayed alerting children’s social care to children living in a house with someone who was uploading images of child abuse, because they did not want to jeopardise the investigation – potentially leaving children at risk.”

In its inspection the watchdog examined force policies, strategies and other documents, and interviewed officers and staff at various levels in planned and unannounced sessions.

It also audited 170 child protection cases and found 54 (32%) were good, 63 (37%) needed improvement and 53 (31%) were inadequate.

But the Met had made progress in some areas of its child protection since the watchdog’s last inspection in 2018, said the report.

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The force had increased staff to manage registered sex offenders and understands better the needs of vulnerable children in police custody.

But, the watchdog said, some children in custody were not being transferred to care quickly enough.

“Some staff said they are under significant pressures. They identified workloads, staff capability and supply of detectives with the right experience as contributing factors.

“It was evident that some of these pressures affect both staff welfare and their investigations.”

The report highlights the proliferation of electronic devices seized from suspects for forensic examination of stored indecent images.

In some cases there was insufficient capacity to examine all of a suspect’s devices.

It says: “We also found concerning delays in uploading images of child abuse to the national child abuse image database (CAID). We do not underestimate the size of this task. For instance, in one case, there were millions of images to review, classify and upload.

“But delays in this process mean delays to all parts of the system designed to tag new photos, identify them on online platforms and remove them. It also potentially means victims are not identified and safeguarded as quickly as they should be. This is a national problem, which we intend to inspect in more detail.”

The inspection was begun in 2020 but was delayed by the pandemic and completed in January and February this year.

Matt Parr, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary said: “There is still much more work to do to provide better outcomes for vulnerable children in London – from more quickly identifying and protecting any children at risk from offenders, to undertaking a skills audit to identify what specialist training officers need.

“We are assured that the Metropolitan Police has plans in place to continue making improvements, and we will closely monitor their performance. If we think it is needed, we will increase our scrutiny of the force’s child protection services.”

 Sky News

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