London cops' tech slammed for failing abused kids – report

HMIC also hits cops for shrugging off responsibility for 'streetwise' children

police hacking

A broken police information system hampered efforts to protect children at risk of sexual exploitation in the UK, according to Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC).

Published today, the watchdog's the 113-page report [PDF] details an HMIC inspection into national child protection. It reveals how London's Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) has had issues with its IT systems that are contributing to failures to protect vulnerable children.

Police staff told HMIC that information on the Met's Crime Recording Information System (CRIS), which holds data regarding children's circumstances and vulnerability, was “not easy to locate” and “complicated” while the system's usage was “neither universally adhered to nor universally understood”.

This is particularly a concern with regards to the force's risk assessments, according to HMIC, which said that in many incidents the cops failed to reflect the intelligence their systems held or simply made inaccurate assessments.

HMIC reported that some cases were graded as being of only “medium risk of harm on the basis that the children in question were 'streetwise and able to take care of themselves'.”

In one such incident, the report went on to explain, a 13-year-old girl who went missing overnight was assessed as only being at medium risk because she was “streetwise” despite the Met's communications centre receiving a report that the child was “alone and unsafe in a house with three men”.

Connectivity issues with the Met's IT systems meant this information was “in an email inbox in the MPS for 14 hours before the force acted on it.”

HMIC stated that such findings “in relation to the flagging and retrieval from the police computer systems of relevant information about child protection issues are a particular concern.”

IT explained that the difficulty of locating information on the current force IT systems risks cases being dealt with in isolation is leading to potential intelligence gaps.

The report concluded: "The lack of connection between the MPS IT systems, databases and spreadsheets used to record such analyses exacerbates this problem. As a result, much of the information on victims, offenders and risk is kept in isolated pockets across the force. This contrasts sharply with the free movement of people (both victims and offenders) around the capital." ®

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