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Aspiring police chiefs 'must' have child abuse prevention experience

Friday, 27 April 2018

Officers who want to progress to chief rank should have operational policing experience of responding to child abuse, a report has said.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the nation’s largest ever public inquiry, published an interim report this week calling for the police to take specific steps to support a “culture change” and “raise the profile and priority of child sexual abuse.”

“The police service will always have a crucial role in preventing and responding to allegations of child sexual abuse. It is responsible for investigating allegations of child sexual abuse and helping to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

“The police will often be one of the first agencies encountered by victims of child sexual abuse, and therefore play a critical role in ensuring that a child is recognised as a victim and given access to the help and support they need,” the document said.

Already the College of Policing has proposed a licence to practice for specialist police officers to ensure child sexual abuse cases are only investigated by trained officers.

But the inquiry wants the CoP to go further and says although any police officer who wants to progress to senior leadership positions must pass the Strategic Command Course, entry requirements should be extended to include “specific training and accreditation” in child sexual abuse.

“This is important work [licence to practice plans] but it will not, nor is it intended to, ensure that the wider culture within police forces reinforces and supports their role in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse,” the report said.

“The Inquiry considers that specific steps should be taken to raise the awareness of child sexual abuse within police forces, and to ensure that the right culture is developed and maintained.

“The chair and panel recommend that any police officer (or staff equivalent) who wants to progress to the Chief Officer cadre must first be required to have operational policing experience in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse, and achieve accreditation in the role of the police service in preventing and responding to child sexual abuse.”

The inquiry wants the Home Office to amend entry requirements under the Police Regulations 2003 to facilitate the change and for the CoP to develop the training package and accreditation arrangements.

More than 2,250 reports of abuse were referred to the police’s national Operation Hydrant team between 2015 and this 2018, according to the report, with 14 resulting in convictions but 1,749 leading to no further action being taken.

An important part of the inquiry includes the testimonies shared by victims and witnesses taking part in the Truth Project.  

A significant proportion of the victims and survivors taking part in the project say they were abused by people in a position of trust. Nearly one in three (28 per cent) were abused by family members and around a quarter (23 per cent) say they were abused by teaching or educational staff. A fifth (20 per cent) were abused by perpetrators such as friends of the family or trusted members of the community, and nearly one in eight (12 per cent) have indicated they were abused by other professionals such as medical practitioners, social workers and police

Police forces have seen a 700 per cent increase in referrals since 2012–13 and the National Crime Agency received an average of 3,500 referrals a month by the end of August 2016 (an increase from approximately 400 referrals received per month in 2010).