1. ITV Report

Gwent Police must 'immediately' overhaul child custody procedures

Credit: PA Images

Gwent Police has been told to immediately review its policy on keeping children in custody after concerns were raised by inspectors.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) raised the matter after discovering children were typically being held in cells in the same area as adult offenders - sometimes for hours while awaiting a representative.

In one case, a 15-year-old boy arrested for robbery was strip-searched without an appropriate adult being present. The search was not urgent and no-one arranged for the appropriate adult to come to the police station for seven hours, a report said.

The force was told to immediately review its policy on keeping children in custody, making sure they are detained only when necessary and for the absolute minimum amount of time as well as seeing that appropriate adults attend the police station promptly.

HMICFRS is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales.

While reviewing the Welsh force, inspectors also found officers failing to properly investigate when registered sex offenders were breaching their conditions by moving addresses and not notifying police as the law requires.

Some of the offences were not investigated or recorded. When the breach was treated as a crime, the offender was not arrested, according to inspectors.

In one case, police failed to arrest a sex offender found living with a woman and children aged two and five, which was in breach of his court order, and no further action was initially taken.

He was twice more found at the address by officers on subsequent visits. He was not arrested but was later prosecuted.

The force was told to improve its procedures in this area within three months.

It is clear that all leaders, officers and staff take their child protection responsibilities seriously. We saw instances of good practice.

We did, however, also identify areas where the force needs to improve. In particular, we would like to see more attention given to record keeping.

We are also concerned about how the force manages registered sex offenders and its treatment of children detained in custody facilities.

Given the force's commitment to child protection, I am confident that it will be able to successfully address our concerns.

– Wendy Williams, HM inspector of constabulary

Another inspection will be carried out again within six months.

Protecting the most vulnerable in our communities is one of our key priorities and I am extremely proud of the work Gwent Police do to safeguard children from abuse, exploitation and harm.

This includes the implementation of ‘Operation Encompass’ to support children experiencing domestic abuse and our Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, which brings partners together to safeguard and protect those most vulnerable in our society.

I acknowledge that some recommendations for improvement have been provided by HMICFRS, primarily around improving communication with children who have witnessed an offence and improving our internal processes to ensure children are able to receive support at the earliest opportunity.

Gwent Police have already begun to implement some of these recommendations and I will continue to monitor progress in order to ensure that our most vulnerable in Gwent receive the best possible service.”

– Jeff Cuthbert, Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent

Gwent Police is committed to protecting vulnerable people, including children, and we are working hard to improve how we manage risk and provide adequate protection, support and safeguarding for children by working closely with our partners in social care, education and health.

Although Gwent Police has been found to have made significant improvements in our response to protecting children in recent years, we take the recommendations highlighted seriously and plans are in place to address these concerns.

– Detective Chief Superintendent Nicky Brain, Gwent Police