Kids who go missing 'failed by Gloucestershire Police', says HMIC report

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Image caption Police say both child protection and child sexual exploitation referrals had sharply risen

Children who go missing regularly in Gloucestershire are at risk of sexual exploitation because police are not tracing them quickly, a report says.

Officers did not attend missing cases, make timely arrests or seize evidence fast enough, the police watchdog said.

Last week, Ofsted inspectors said Gloucestershire County Council had "serious and widespread" failings in its child protection services.

Gloucestershire Police has said it is working hard to make improvements.

The HMIC report highlighted a case of a 15-year-old girl in foster care who regularly went missing, but police did not record her absences "as they would serve no purpose".

No action was taken for 10 days to find her and when she was found, she had been drugged with crack cocaine and raped several times by older men.

'Referrals up 50%'

Another case involved a five-year-old boy who was present when his mother was raped. The effect this had on him was not considered by police.

The report said: "When the incident was discussed at the central referral unit meeting, details of the incident were not forwarded to children's social care because it was decided the child was not at risk."

Gloucestershire Police said in the year leading up to the inspection, both child protection referrals and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) referrals had risen by nearly 50%.

Over the past six years the force has lost 240 officers, it added.

Assistant Chief Constable, Julian Moss said: "The understanding of officers is inconsistent, in some cases it is excellent, in other cases their understanding of the complexity and the risk isn't as well understood as it should be.

"What we need to do, and will be doing, is improve the training across the force."

Some of positives were highlighted in the report, such as the dedication of officers, the setting up a multi-agency to tackle child sexual exploitation and the force's work in managing convicted sex offenders in order to protect children.

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