In­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes against vul­ner­a­ble has im­proved

Staines Informer - - NEWS - Mark Ed­wards

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.”

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