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Ian Critchley responds to the HMICFRS Group-Based CSE Inspection report published today.

National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Child Protection, Ian Critchley QPM, said:

“Child sexual exploitation is deplorable and inflicts lifelong harm on vulnerable victims and their families. Policing is absolutely committed to keeping children safe and protecting them from abuse in all its forms and bringing more offenders to justice whenever and wherever these abhorrent crimes were committed.

“Following the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), I apologised to the many victims that had been so let down by policing and the wider criminal justice system recognising the huge impact on them and their families. Policing is committed to continue to improve in this crucial area, the public rightly expect nothing less.

“As such, I welcome this report and the engagement that policing has had with the Inspectorate throughout, which highlights areas of improvement, but is also clear that there are areas of inconsistency that need addressing.

“At the centre of this are child victims and adult survivors and this report is welcomed helping policing to continue to improve its prevention, disruption and investigation of these appalling crimes. The report identifies where this is done well and areas where further improvements are needed. 

“The report also highlights that policing takes a victim-centred approach and found good evidence of safeguarding children. Furthermore, it found where forces had invested in specialist teams, there was an enhanced quality of investigation.

“However, there is still too much inconsistency in some areas, including the use of victim-blaming language - not seen in some forces, but still present in others, and where there are non-specialist staff investigating offences, the quality of investigations are not to the standard expected.

“It is pleasing though that the recommendations around data collection, definitions and intelligence collection have already been progressed through the Government funded CSE Taskforce, which was established in April 2023 to enhance the policing response to child sexual exploitation and abuse and co-ordinate national best practice and guidance. We are also working with the College of Policing on the development of the Professionalising Public Protection Programme further enhancing training for specialist and frontline officers and staff.   

“The work of the taskforce has accelerated this crucial work that was already being progressed in forces and nationally through the Hydrant Programme and we are seeing more offenders being brought to justice for current and non-recent group-based offending. The taskforce is currently supporting 40 investigations nationally and many of these are being advised by the CPS Organised Child Sexual Abuse Unit.

“Whilst we are seeing significant improvements in policing’s approach to targeting and investigating child sexual exploitation and group-based offending, we will not be complacent, and we recognise there is still more to be done as highlighted in this report. Through our work, we will continue to listen to victims and use these recommendations to support our improvements with forces across the country.

“Every child has the right to thrive in society, protected from harm and abuse and we will continue to strengthen our work with partners and improve how we prevent offending - giving confidence to victims to come forward when they need us most.”