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Force Welcomes HMIC Report into Missing Children

Dorset Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner have welcomed a report which identifies the Force’s positive practice in working to keep missing children safe.

The report titled; ‘Missing children: who cares? The police response to missing and absent children’, forms part of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary’s Police Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy, or PEEL, inspections.

The inspectors assessed Dorset Police’s response to missing and absent children as well as the Force’s readiness to tackle child sexual exploitation as children who go missing are at greater risk of becoming a victim of this kind of offending.

The report identifies a number of positive initiatives and makes specific reference to Dorset Police for their sharing of a missing persons’ database with social services and sending alerts to partners for missing incidents.

Another key finding of the report is that children categorised as ‘absent’ receive far less attention from the police. The differences between the definitions of ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ determine the level and urgency of the response. The categorisation of absent indicates that the child is believed to be at ‘no apparent risk’, meaning that no immediate action is to be taken. However, Dorset Police do not use the grading of ‘absent’ and classify any missing child as ‘missing’ and therefore they are considered a priority to find and safeguard.

Head of Dorset Police’s Public Protection Unit, Superintendent Kevin Connolly, said: “Responding to reports of missing children can be complicated and time-consuming so I am delighted that Dorset has been identified as a force using notably positive initiatives in its work.

“The Force has already recognised the danger of categorising missing children as ‘absent’ as the associated risks to that child, such as sexual and other types of exploitation, make them vulnerable and so must be a priority to be found. Therefore, no missing child in Dorset has been recorded as absent since we implemented a policy against this in May 2015.

“The Force takes any report of a missing child very seriously and we work with our partners to ensure safeguarding and implement measures to reduce any risk as early as possible. We have recently partnered with Barnardo’s who have launched a Pan Dorset Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Missing Children Service, which is commissioned by Dorset Police, Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC), Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council, Borough of Poole and the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group. This service works to reduce the number of incidents of children and young people who run away from home or care, as well as protecting those children deemed at risk of CSE.”

Dorset Police was also graded as ‘good’ by the recent HMIC Effectiveness, Efficiency and Legitimacy Report, which acknowledged that the Force is effective at safeguarding the public from dangerous and prolific offenders. A link to the full previous news release on Police Efficiency can be found on the Dorset Police website here >

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill, said: “It is great that the work of Dorset Police’s protecting vulnerable people team has been recognised by HMIC. We have strong links with social service teams and our multi-agency approach helps ensure the best outcomes for children who go missing.

“I share the HMIC concern over the use of the absent category, and have been in dialogue with various charities over this. I shall be writing to the Policing Minister asking for the absent category to be removed. Calling a child ‘absent’ allows a child to slip through the net, and often lowers the response of the agencies involved in dealing with the case. I am glad to say that Dorset Police do not use this category.”


If anyone is concerned that a child or young person is regularly missing, is at risk of child sexual exploitation or any other type of exploitation, please report your concerns to the Police on 101, or 999 if a child is in immediate danger.

Please do not make presumptions as to whether you believe a child may or may not be vulnerable. A missing child is always vulnerable as they may be exposed to other risks.

Report Child Abuse:

Dorset Police by calling 101 (999 in an emergency)

Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111                

Local Authority Children’s Social Care:

Bournemouth: 01202 456900

Poole: 01202 735046

Dorset: www.dorsetforyou.com/393713

For more information visit:


ISSUED: 23 March 2016