Nothing matters more than protecting our children
Nothing is more important in policing than to keep the most vulnerable members of our communities safe. Where victims have been let down, it is essential that steps are taken urgently to protect them from further harm and to bring those who harmed them to justice. As Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, I am clear that victims of crime must be at the heart of our policing and criminal justice system.
Late last year, an urgent review was ordered by Chief Constable Kavanagh following the identification of concerns in respect of the quality of investigations and the management of cases primarily involving the Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) in the North Local Policing Area (LPA) of Essex. This work led Essex Police to refer a number of cases to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), to suspend one officer and place another eleven officers on Restricted duties.
The IPCC has announced that it is conducting two independent investigations and a managed investigation of referrals relating to the handling of 28 child abuse investigations which were reported to Essex Police between April 2011 and November 2014. These cases involve 59 victims. Some of those investigations involve allegations of a lack of honesty or integrity by officers. To ensure a rigorous quality check, Essex Police is continuing to review a significant number of other cases, including the work of the two other Child Abuse Investigation Teams in the West and South LPAs. Early indications are that the problems relating to the quality of investigation and management of investigations identified in the North CAIT do not appear to be replicated in the West and South teams.
That children who may have suffered serious abuse were subsequently let down by Essex Police is of the greatest concern to me, as it is to the Chief Constable who has kept me closely informed of this issue since it came to light.
It is right and proper that the independent police watchdog is investigating these alleged failings, and I welcome their involvement. However, it is also the case that such investigations can take a significant period of time before reporting their findings. It is essential that any steps that can be taken immediately to safeguard our children are taken now, and I welcome the measures outlined by the Chief Constable in his statement here.
As Police and Crime Commissioner, I will continue to support the efforts of the overwhelming majority of police officers, PCSOs and police staff who work tirelessly to protect the people of Essex from harm. However, where officers are found to have failed in their fundamental duties, then firm and swift action must be taken.
I will be continuing to hold the Chief Constable to account for the delivery of policing to protect the most vulnerable in our communities, and to improve working with partner agencies such as social care to protect and safeguard our children where allegations of child sexual abuse have been made.
When I was elected Police and Crime Commissioner in November 2012, I knew that Essex Police needed to transform its approach to tackling domestic abuse, and I made this a priority in the Police and Crime Plan for our county. Much excellent work has taken place under the leadership of the Chief Constable, and I believe Essex Police’s new processes and increased commitment to partnership working are helping to address the horrors of domestic abuse.
It is now clear that a similar focus is needed to ensure child sexual abuse is tackled as professionally as possible in our county. I am committed to ensuring that the hidden harms of child sexual exploitation, online grooming, ‘honour’ based violence and people trafficking become a priority for Essex Police.
The concerns about the quality of work in the North CAIT were first identified by the force itself. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I promise the people of Essex that if a stone is overturned to find something shocking underneath, then firm and robust action will be taken to identify the core problems and rectify them.
A new team of police officers and police staff is now in place in the north of Essex to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. It is essential that victims continue to report crimes to Essex Police so that they can be supported and perpetrators brought to justice.
If any victims or families are worried about child abuse investigations by Essex Police I would urge them to call the special helpline number on 01245 282103.
If you are currently suffering from abuse, or believe someone that you know is, you should call Essex Police immediately on 999.
Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex