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Stakeholder update Feb 2022

Welcome to the first Operation Hydrant Stakeholder update of 2022. 

 There are a number of updates we would like to share with you today: 

  • Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse – Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks – Policing response to today’s published report. 
  • Operation Hydrant Future Structures – Many of you contributed to our consultation programme in 2021, and your feedback has helped to inform our future structures. An update on the new offer from Operation Hydrant in its transitional year. 
  • National trends in reporting of non-recent child sexual abuse – Our latest statistics and what they tell us. 

Child Sexual Exploitation by Organised Networks

Today, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse published a report sharing the findings from its inquiry into institutional responses to the sexual exploitation of children by organised networks. 

The NPCC, alongside 5 police forces, were one of 19 Core Participants within the inquiry strand, and this morning NPCC lead for child protection and abuse investigation, DCC Ian Critchley, and Operation Hydrant National Coordinator, Richard Fewkes, have had opportunity to read the report and its recommendations. 

As key stakeholders to policing’s work, we would like to take the opportunity to share policing’s response to the IICSA Report with you first hand, to ensure that you are sighted on it. 

DCC Ian Critchley, NPCC lead for child protection and abuse investigation said:  

“The protection of all children from exploitation is crucial. We know that some of our most vulnerable young people experience harm which has lifelong consequences and policing is committed to keeping our children safe, and protecting them from abuse in all its forms.  

“We acknowledge the valuable work of the Inquiry and welcome the spotlight on how children at risk of exploitation and who have been harmed by exploitation can be better safeguarded. We will reflect and act on the Inquiry’s findings and we accept the recommendations.  

“We recognise that victims have been failed in the past. Policing has worked hard to learn from its mistakes, and the approach today to tackling child sexual exploitation and abuse has evolved, with many examples of innovative police work, positive outcomes for victims, and perpetrators brought to justice. However, we are not complacent, and we recognise there is still more to be done. The Report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse provides an opportunity for policing and partners, to take that process of continuous improvement forward.

Victims are at the centre of all we do and must never be made to feel that they are at fault for what has happened to them.
DCC Ian Critchley
NPCC lead for child protection and abuse investigation

“Some of the issues raised within the Report have already, or are, in the process of being addressed. We know that gaps in data collection, for example, inhibit our ability to fully profile this type of criminality. Over the past year, a regional network of analysts has been established who capture data nationally, to form a rich picture of trends in child sexual exploitation and abuse. This analysis provides a far more informed response at national and local level. However, we accept that there remain further steps to be taken in our data collection processes, to provide for example, a fuller profile of offender characteristics which will help to better target our resources, better prevent, and better protect. We are committed to continuing to enhance this area of our work in future and will act robustly on the findings. 

“Victims are at the centre of all we do and must never be made to feel that they are at fault for what has happened to them. We support the focus within the Report on the importance of using the right language in the right way – children who have been subject to exploitation are not “at risk” they have been “harmed”. The language we use, and the way we communicate with those who have experienced trauma is key and we have worked with policing colleagues across the country to ensure our response is always both caring and compassionate.  

“Victims can be assured that when they take the hugely difficult decision to report to police, that they will be treated with empathy and respect. From there an impartial and proportionate investigation will follow. I urge anyone who has suffered in this most appalling way, wherever and whenever this was, to come forward if it is the right time for them.” 

If you have any queries regarding the policing response to the IICSA published report, please do get in touch with us at [email protected]

Operation Hydrant Future Structures 

As 2022 begins, we’d like to update you on a period of transition for Operation Hydrant. We’re working towards our future structure and want to share the planned changes with you as key stakeholders to our work.  

What’s happened so far? 

The work Operation Hydrant carries out has evolved and adapted since our inception in 2014 so that we now provide coordination for policing across a range of matters relating to child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation, and the spectrum of wider children’s vulnerability. Also, the conclusion of the work of the IICSA in late 2022 will remove the requirement for Operation Hydrant to act as the interface between the work of the Inquiry and policing.   

Your views 

Because of this, Operation Hydrant undertook a process of consultation and review in 2021. We had many, many responses from policing colleagues, partners, and stakeholders to our survey and within our focus groups, all of which were reflected upon and considered – thank you to everyone who contributed.  

Future Structures 

The review concluded that Operation Hydrant provides a range of functions to national policing, which it is important to continue delivering, and for which there is continued or expanding demand. This includes (but isn’t limited to): 

  • The coordination of national or critical issues which overarch local investigations and national policing portfolios. 
  •   Acting as a centre of expertise on child sexual abuse and exploitation, capturing learning and disseminating good practice and producing resources for policing.
  •   The Peer Review and Peer Support function.
  •    Receiving safeguarding referrals from non-policing organisations and disseminating within policing and building relationships with partners in the third sector.

A new set of strategic objectives have now been agreed for the transitional year. The structure of the Operation Hydrant team will change over the next few months to ensure the right people are in the right roles to ensure the strategic objectives are met. By July 2022, the new structure will be in place and fully functioning.  

Keeping you informed

We’ll be sending more detailed information on our new structure to key partners and stakeholders over the next couple of weeks but for now, the key information you need to know is: 

  • Operation Hydrant’s criteria will widen to encompass the entire breadth of the child protection and abuse portfolio. 
  • The HOLMES database will no longer be maintained for the purpose of operational coordination and deconfliction and its supporting functions. 
  • Operation Hydrant’s role as interface to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse would naturally conclude following publication of the IICSA’s final report in 2022, and the conclusion of the statutory period which follows it. 
  • The valuable Peer Review and Peer Support function offer will be expanded across the CPAI portfolio. The team will grow to offer increased capacity. 
  • The analysis capability for child sexual abuse and other areas of vulnerability will expand. The team will collaborate with other policing programmes and partners to develop a wider understanding of scale and threat.  

If you have any questions on any of the above, please do let us know. Otherwise, we will keep you updated as we progress through our transition period. 

Operation Hydrant Quarterly Statistics

Our latest quarterly statistics, concluding the calendar year 2021, were published recently. You can view them in full on the NPCC website via the following link: 

Quarterly statistics


  • The total number of suspects notified to Operation Hydrant since its inception in 2014 is 8,797. 
  • The majority of suspects are male – 8,044. 
  • The total number of victims on the Operation Hydrant database is12,320. While the number of victims on the database continues to increase, the rate of reporting by victims has declined.
  • The majority of victims are male – 8,178. 
  • There are 5,516 institutions on the Operation Hydrant database. By far the majority are educational – 2, 328. 
  • People of public prominence continue to remain a very small percentage of the overall suspect total – around 3% 

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day, taking place on 8 February, is being supported by DCC Critchley as NPCC lead for child protection. 

DCC Critchley has shared the supportive comment below with the Safer Internet Centre: 

“Protecting children from all forms of harm and abuse is a multi-agency endeavour with complex challenges in each part of the response, and NPCC works closely with the NCA and our partners as we seek to keep children safe. Safer Internet Day is a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of our efforts.  

Helping parents to understand the signs of child sexual abuse, have open conversations with their children about their internet use, and being able to spot any signs that their child may be experiencing sexual abuse or be vulnerable to it will all help to prevent it.” 

All police forces are aware of Safer Internet Day, and have been encouraged to promote and amplify this important message locally. 

Get in touch

Thank you for your time, and we hope you found this update useful. 

If you have any questions, or feedback, please do get in touch with us at [email protected]