Police forces are still failing too many young victims of sexual abuse, according to a series of new reports – with only one in three cases involving vulnerable children being handled to a good standard.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary has warned senior officers “risk failing another generation of children” if they don’t reassess their approach.
The police watchdog’s inspections found a case where it took three months to interview a man whose nine-year-old grandson accused him of rape.
In another case, police and social workers agreed, without consulting a doctor, that vaginal bleeding in a four-year-old girl was eczema – despite the child saying she had been sexually assaulted by a relative.
The HMIC’s Chief Inspector, Sir Tom Winsor, said it must be remembered that there are many good, compassionate and hard-working officers deployed in child protection.
However, he added: “Overall, the inspections found considerable inconsistency of the treatment of vulnerable victims by the police.”
Following the Jimmy Savile scandal, and sexual grooming cases in Rochdale, Oxford and Rotherham, police forces around the country have tried to change the way they deal with young victims of sexual abuse.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Policing Lead for Child Protection, said: “The scale of child sexual abuse is staggering.
“By the end of 2015, we anticipate that police will be investigating over 70,000 cases of child sexual abuse – an increase of 88% from 2012.
“We are at a crossroads. We have got to fundamentally change our approach to policing so that our absolute focus is on working proactively with other agencies to protect the public from harm committed online or offline.”
Mr Bailey warned that “no one should underestimate how much of a transformation this is” – as it involves changing the culture of 43 individual organisations.
The HMIC’s reports have predicted the numbers of victims coming forward to report abuse will continue to rise, and called on every senior police officer to ensure no child is allowed to slip through the net.