Met police apologises for failing to protect children at risk of abuse

The Metropolitan police has apologised for failing to protect children and pledged to reform itself after one of the most scathing reports by the official watchdog exposed systemic problems in the way it investigates children at risk of abuse.

The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said three-quarters of the 384 cases it examined were substandard.

Matt Parr, lead inspector for HMIC, said his team found shocking failures involving errors in leadership, training, organisation and judgment. He pointed out that in more than 10% of the cases problems were so alarming there was ongoing risk to child safety.

“We had to send 38 of them straight back to the Met immediately because of the severity of what they contained of leaving children at risk,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday.

The Met has appointed assistant commissioner Martin Hewitt to address the failures identified in the report. In a statement, it said: “Our aim is to provide the best possible protection to children and we are sorry that this has not always been the case.”

It said it would use the HMIC report as “launch pad” for changing its approach.

Hewitt said the Met accepted the findings, telling Today: “There is no doubt that level of inadequacy is something that is really troubling.”

He pointed out that none of the urgent cases highlighted by the inspectorate resulted in criminal charges.

He said: “We set a team up as soon as we became of the findings to look at every one of those cases. In all of those cases that were sent back that were so worrying to the HMIC, we have looked at all of those, and in none of those cases have we identified further risk and we haven’t charged or cautioned anyone.”

Parr was asked whether the inspectors were shocked by what they found. He said: “Yes I think we were. And I think the Met has been shocked by what we found as well. This now moves on to how quickly and how thoroughly things can be put right.”

Martin Hewitt

Martin Hewitt. Photograph: Ian Nicholson/PA Archive/Press Association Ima

He added: “We have given the Met an action plan. There is no reason why they shouldn’t sort this out, but it is going to be a long bit of work to get it right.

“This is very hard-hitting report. We found all sorts of failures; at pretty much every stage of a child’s interaction with the Met things were going wrong. This is the 13th inspection into child protection in individual forces. In contrast to all the other forces we looked at, the Met had no single senior officer who had responsibility for child protection.”

Hewitt said the Met accepted there was no senior officer in charge of child protection, and that he now had that role. He added: “It is my responsibility and my determination to improve the way we operate.”

But he pointed out that the “scale and the complexity of operating in London is fundamentally different to any other organisation. In most other county forces you would work with one children safeguarding board, in London we work with 32 children safeguarding boards. This is not to make excuses but we have to accept the context of policing in London.”

London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said he would work with the government and the Met to ensure vulnerable Londoners were protected.

Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon)

I will be working with the Home Secretary, Met Police & other experts to ensure we do everything possible to safeguard vulnerable Londoners.

November 25, 2016