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Friday, 17 February 2017

New missing people database to launch aimed at tackling child sexual exploitation

Written by Hayden Smith

A new national database of missing people is to be rolled out as part of a drive to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The facility will allow police to access data about adults and children who disappear across force boundaries.

Plans for a National Missing Persons Register were revealed as ministers announced new steps aiming to bolster authorities' efforts to prevent a repeat of abuse scandals such as those seen in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford.

A Government report published on Thursday said: "We know missing children are particularly at risk of sexual exploitation.

"Working with the National Police Chiefs Council we will develop a National Missing Persons Register that will allow the police to access data about missing people, including children, across force boundaries."

Information will be made available through a new national law enforcement data service, which is expected to go live in 2018.

Last year a parliamentary inquiry warned that thousands of children could be at "terrible risk" because they are effectively off the police radar when they disappear.

Under police guidance, when forces receive a report that a child is missing they can class them as either "missing" or "absent". A categorisation of absent denotes that the child is considered to be at "no apparent risk".

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults said its inquiry heard cases of children classed as absent who had been groomed for sexual exploitation or criminal activity such as drug-running.

Concerns about the response to missing children have also been raised by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

A report from the watchdog published in March said data sets at force and national level are "not reliable and so cannot provide a full understanding of the nature and extent of missing incidents or their seriousness".

It added: "It is therefore impossible to know how many children in England and Wales go missing, how often, or how many of these might be at risk of child sexual exploitation or other exploitation or abuse."

In 2015/16, police forces in England, Scotland and Wales received 382,855 calls reporting people missing. Children and young people accounted for over half of missing incidents, with 94% aged between 12-17.

Plans for the new database emerged as Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched a £40m package of measures to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The cash injection will see the National Crime Agency receive an extra £20 million, a new Centre of Expertise will be launched, and £2.2 million will be handed to charities working to protect children at risk of trafficking.

A new licence to practise for specialist child abuse investigators will also be piloted as part of measures to "professionalise" the police response.

There was a 24% increase in police recording of contact child sexual abuse offences in 2015/16, according to figures cited in the Government report.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.