‘Inadequate’ Essex Police failing the most vulnerable in the county

Nick Alston

Nick Alston - Credit: Archant

Essex Police has been rated as ‘inadequate’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in their work protecting vulnerable people and supporting victims, which has drawn criticism from a leading children’s charity.

The NSPCC say HMIC’s findings, which highlight significant weaknesses in how cases involving vulnerable people and children are investigated by the force, are “deeply disturbing”.

In the report, published today (February 18), HMIC said: “HMIC has significant concerns about the capability of Essex Police to protect vulnerable people from harm and support victims. There are serious weaknesses in the force’s arrangements to safeguard and investigate cases involving vulnerable people.

“The force’s response to victims of domestic abuse is poor. There is confusion as to roles and responsibilities amongst officers in medium and standard risk cases resulting in safeguarding opportunities being missed.

“The force is unprepared to tackle child sexual exploitation. The force has a poor understanding of the nature and scale of child sexual exploitation and knowledge and awareness among frontline staff are limited, which adversely affects their ability to identify and respond to cases.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “It’s deeply disturbing that HMIC has rated Essex Police as having a “significant weakness” in its response to missing and absent children, and its preparedness to tackle child sexual exploitation.

“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.

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“As more victims of child abuse and exploitation continue to come forward, it’s essential that all police forces are properly trained and equipped to respond to these most horrific of crimes.”

HMIC also found that the force ‘requires improvement’ in preventing crime and anti-social behaviour, as well as its effectiveness in investigating crime and managing offenders.

The force did receive a ‘good’ rating for its work in tackling serious and organised crime, but the overall judgement from HMIC was that the county’s police force ‘requires improvement’.

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex, said: “While the HMIC report rates Essex Police as good at tackling serious and organised crime, some of the findings are hard hitting and disappointing.

“It is also the case that some of the information in the report was not known to me as PCC. Specifically I did not know that during the summer of 2015, neighbourhood policing was suspended in the north of the county for six weeks.

“I am surprised and disappointed that I was not informed of this by chief officers, and I have discussed this with the deputy chief constable.

“For several decades, police forces across the country have not focused sufficiently on protecting the most vulnerable. We must get better at supporting victims, safeguarding them from harm and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

Deputy chief constable Matthew Horne said: “We accept the report’s criticisms of the force’s work protecting vulnerable people including children and victims of domestic abuse.

“This is our highest priority and inspections last year which led to this report and one yet to be published on child protection have already been met with significant improvements in how we work to protect vulnerable people at risk of some of the most evil crimes in society.”