Investigating crimes against vulnerable has improved
SURREY Police has made ‘good progress’ in improving how it investigates crimes committed against vulnerable people, according to a new report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) had labelled the force ‘in- adequate’ in protecting vul- nerable victims and investigating crimes against them following an inspection in June last year.
Their report, published in December, found ‘serious weaknesses’ in the force’s arrangements for protecting vulnerable people from harm, particularly children.
It found examples of young people potentially at risk of not being referred on to the local authority by investigating officers.
The then Police and Crime Commissioner Kevin Hurley looked into the possibility of firing Chief Constable Lynne Owens and subsequently questioned the Home Office’s decision to appoint her as the new head of the National Crime Agency.
Mr Hurley held Mrs Owens personally responsible and likened the force’s failure to protect children in the county to the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
HMIC inspectors revisited Surrey Police in April to measure its progress, particularly with regard to child sexual exploitation cases (CSE).
Inspectors reviewed five investigations, finding each was of a good standard.
The report states: “Surrey Police has made good progress to improve its child abuse investigations.
“It has allocated more staff to public protection roles, there is good governance and a robust audit process of cases, which means that staff have lower caseloads and better supervision.”
The report said the force had improved its missing persons investigations and staff now understood the importance of assessing risk.
Yet inspectors noted that the force’s IT system still had limitations and needed improvement.
The report said: “The force has improved how its deals with cases of CSE. It has provided training to, and raised awareness of all staff.
“Most staff understand that assessing and dealing with vulnerability is a force priority.
“The force has worked hard not only to change the focus of officers and staff, but had allocated resources to public protection departments to deal with the demands and put processes in place to ensure it assesses risk more effectively.”
HMIC previously told Surrey Police to take ‘urgent action’ to better help vulnerable victims with the June inspection revealing ‘poor’ handling of reports of missing children and a poor approach to identifying children who were repeatedly reported as absent.
Surrey Police responded by saying it was investing £4.9 million to protect vulnerable people and improve its response to victims of sexual offences, domestic abuse and child abuse.
HMIC said it would carry out another effectiveness inspection of the force in the autumn as well as another child protection re-inspection.
Chief Constable Nick Ephgrave, said: “HMIC’s previous findings have been a concerning part of our recent history because despite the dedication of our staff, ultimately we were not protecting the vulnerable as well as we needed to.
“I’m really pleased that the inspectors have found that all our significant public protection improvement work and investment over the last year is now really starting to see results.
“This is really encouraging because it means we are making the county safer and delivering a better service to the people who most need us.
“However, we aren’t complacent and have always said we’re in this for the long haul. We have more progress we still want to make, and will continue the drive and improvements that are starting to deliver results.”