POLICE responses to cases of vulnerable missing children and domestic abuse victims are not good enough, according to a critical report.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has published its annual findings on the effectiveness of West Mercia following an inspection last summer.
Although some areas of the force were deemed to be ‘good’, including preventing and investigating crime and anti-social behaviour, overall West Mercia ‘requires improvement.’
However, the report gave a particularly damming verdict of the force’s approach when responding to cases of vulnerable missing children, criticising responses for not being ‘consistently good enough’. The report was also critical of how West Mercia is currently tackling child sexual exploitation.
A HMIC spokesman said: “HMIC found that the force’s approach to responding to vulnerable missing children and assessing the risks to domestic abuse victims is not consistently good enough.
“This means that the force is not always fully addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable victims. However, where risk and vulnerability has been correctly identified, the police response to victims is good.”
In response, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner Bill Longmore said: “I believe that future HMIC inspections will find that there have been improvements in the way cases of missing children are handled.
“It is also worth noting that the current HMIC report says the West Mercia force has made an encouraging start in ensuring that it is adequately prepared to tackle child sexual exploitation.”
A spokesman for the NSPCC said the lack of effectiveness in safeguarding vulnerable children is ‘particularly worrying’.
“It’s deeply disturbing that West Mercia Police were not tackling child sexual exploitation effectively, though the force has made a start,” he said.
“This seems a remarkable state of affairs considering the high profile trials of grooming gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere which sharply brought into focus the failings of police forces in investigating these crimes and supporting young victims.
“Criticism of West Mercia Police’s response to vulnerable missing children is particularly worrying, as the force is potentially overlooking risks of grooming or sexual exploitation.”