The Metropolitan Police are often using officers and staff to investigate child exploitation who don’t have the skills or knowledge to do this effectively. Their supervisors are also lacking the right knowledge and experience. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said that the Met’s lack of understanding of the nature and scale of child exploitation is a significant barrier to the force being able to tackle the problem.
His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Lee Freeman said: “Children who are at risk of exploitation, or who go missing from home, are some of the most vulnerable in society. The police and other public services have a shared responsibility to look for the warning signs, be alert to the risks and act quickly to protect children.
“It is particularly concerning that the Metropolitan Police Service isn’t doing enough when children are suffering from, or at risk of, exploitation. The force should make sure that it fully understands the risks to children, and that officers and staff are equipped to identify and tackle those risks effectively, so no child is left unprotected.
“The Met has already committed to increasing the number of officers in some teams dealing with child exploitation. For the benefit of London’s children, the force should implement our recommendations in full and without delay.”
The inspectorate was commissioned by the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London (MOPAC) to inspect the Met’s handling of child sexual and criminal exploitation. You can view the report on the inspectorate website.
Commander Kevin Southworth, lead for Public Protection at the Met, said in response to the report: “I’m deeply sorry to the children and families we have let down and want to reassure our communities that we are already taking significant steps to address these recommendations. We are putting more police resource into this area and retraining officers to have a better understanding of the complexities of child exploitation so we can continue our work to win back the trust of Londoners.”