Just before Easter, HMIC released an inspection report into child protection of my local police force ,amongst others. They had rated Humberside as inadequate and identified a number of areas that required immediate improvement. The Chief Constable had left the force prior to this report.
Extracts from report are in bold.
The report flagged up very serious failings with regard to investigating and safeguarding CSE victims, children witnessing domestic violence, monitoring registered sex offenders and procedural failures leading to insufficient investigation into offences.
I wish I was surprised,but it simply confirmed my experience of daring to report child abuse to them.
The force has only provided limited training for control room staff in relation to
vulnerability, including child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and coercive control . The force has recognised this and plans to provide training to all control
room staff in March 2017 to improve understanding. To address this gap in
knowledge, it is essential that the force provides this training. The introduction of the
VIAT is in part an effort to mitigate this issue, but it is not operating 24 hours a day
and in any case does not yet consistently identify vulnerability in a timely way to help
assess risk to children.
This is fairly self explanatory, it should have however been dealt with years ago. Humberside is the force that failed to red flag up Ian Huntley
The force responded to a 999 call from a victim of domestic abuse three-and-ahalf
hours after receiving it. Information in the log relating to the incident
indicates that criminal damage may have been committed to the victim’s laptop.
When officers did attend the premises, they advised the suspect to leave the
premises and concluded (incorrectly) that no crime had been committed. The
force assessed this incident as standard risk. However, the victim had been the
victim of domestic abuse on numerous previous occasions and there were also
other risk factors including a child being verbally abused, drug abuse and
separation. No referral was made to children’s social care. Since this incident
there have been five further domestic abuse incidents, most of which were
assessed in isolation by attending officers as standard risk. We found that
officers did not recognise that the escalation and frequency of the occurrences
increased the risk of domestic abuse in this family
A neighbour called the police having heard screaming from an adjacent
address. A mother of one and three-year-old boys had been assaulted by her
partner. The police arrested and charged him. However, there is no entry
relating to this incident on the child abuse tracking system, so it is not known
whether the children were seen or if their welfare was checked. Further, it
appears that no referral was ever made to children’s social care services in
relation to two young children exposed to domestic abuse.
This is appalling, but from my experience not at all unusual, I contacted them a number of times with concerns, supplied historic details, witness contact details and even audio recordings. My youngest told a police officer her Dad had threatened her. My eldest was a victim similar physical abuse to what I had reported months before. As they say in Yorkshire,nowt appened .
The force does not always record the demeanour of a child, including what the child
said to the officer. The force has tried to improve the recording of such information
by including specific prompt questions on its domestic abuse risk assessment forms,
but the quality of its responses remains inconsistent
Once again from my personal experience, that they actually take very little notice of what children say, leaving them in very high risk situations
The mother of two children (aged six months and two years) reported being sent
intimidating text messages and photographs of damage which her ex-partner
had caused to the house. She was too frightened to return home. The child
abuse computer system was not checked but would have shown a child death
linked to the suspect. There was an initial delay in police attendance while
young children were left in a high-risk situation with a suspect who had
attempted suicide the previous week. The officers failed to identify coercive and
controlling behaviour by the suspect. They did not make a timely child protection
referral, as this was not highlighted as a case involving children. As a
consequence, the case remained in the backlog of cases awaiting inputting on
the computer system
Looking at this, how long before another child death, like Ellie Butler?
The force does not consistently record decisions from principal safeguarding
meetings in minutes. For example, the multi-agency child exploitation (MACE)
meetings held in Hull and East Riding do not record minutes, and so there is no
record of any actions agreed. Inspectors also found that the minutes of some
strategy meetings and initial child protection conferences did not contain a record of
principal decisions made. This means it is unclear what activity has taken place, or is
required to keep children safe. It is also very difficult to hold staff and other agencies
to account for their action, or inaction
and with regard to the use of Police Protection
However, inspectors were concerned by the force's failure to record data relating to
its use of protection powers consistently. The form that officers completed when they
exercised these powers should be uploaded to the force intelligence system, but this
did not always happen. This means that the force cannot rely on or assess any data
it holds and represents a gap in intelligence that might otherwise inform the force's
decisions when dealing with future safeguarding incidents
Parents will not be at all surprised at this, many have been complaining nationwide regarding police forces failing to follow procedures then this tainted evidence used in family proceedings.
Although inspectors found some cases where the decisions reached clearly took
account of the needs and views of children, many case files contained very little
information about the views of the child. The delays in speaking to children and
dealing with suspects seen will do little to deepen the level of trust that children at
risk might have in the police or other agencies and may lead them to conclude that
the police do not believe them
Which puts them at so much greater risk, both short term and long term.
Inspectors found that most PVPU staff spoken with who manage child abuse
investigations are knowledgeable, committed and dedicated to providing good
outcomes for children identified as being at risk of harm. However, many PVPU staff
have not completed the specialist child abuse investigator development programme
(SCAIDP), nor are they detectives or working towards full detective status.
No SCAIDP courses are currently available to staff. This lack of training in
safeguarding and investigation was apparent through our case audits, in which
inspectors found that wider safeguarding issues remained unaddressed. This left
children potentially at risk of harm and meant the force was not pursuing some
Case file analysis
Results of case file reviews
During the course of the inspection, Humberside Police assessed 33 cases in
accordance with criteria provided by HMIC. We asked the force to rate each of the
33 self-assessed cases. Practice was viewed as good by the force assessors in five
of the cases and as requiring improvement in fourteen. In 15 of the cases practice
was considered to be inadequate. HMIC also assessed these cases. We were pleased to note that we agreed with all
the force assessors’ gradings.
Inspectors selected and examined a further 63 cases where children were identified
as being at risk. Sixteen were assessed as good, 21 as requiring improvement and
26 as inadequate.
The context of the court proceedings
Very rarely have I seen police evidence criticised in judgements. yet from this and I am sure Humberside are not the only force to be failing in this way, it ought to be given more scrutiny , I feel that more weight is given to professional evidence in court proceedings . Parents are seen as conspiracy theorists or non complaint if they question it's validity. This clearly demonstrates it cannot be trusted.
There are of course reasons why, the police are underfunded like every other public service and being inspected may actually add to the problem.
What if you are that Mum who has called the police numerous times and then Childrens Services get involved saying you don't have understanding of the risk to your children. Or you are facing a child protection conference where the decisions taken are not minuted. At risk of sounding like I am throwing my dummy out of the pram , it really is not fair. More importantly it is not safe for children.