In most situations a missing person investigation is considered long term after 12 months, at this point the investigation will be reviewed to consider if it can become a “Long Term Missing” case.
Review processes vary from force to force so it is hard to suggest what you should expect in your area.
Police guidance states:
“Reviews should be completed at the latest after twenty-eight days, three months, six months, and twelve months, then annually thereafter. If significant information comes to light, this should trigger an immediate review. Consideration may also be given to cold case reviews of outstanding missing person cases.”
When a review is held it will be conducted by a senior officer (in most forces a Detective Superintendent) and the review will explore all previous investigation activity, previous reviews and ensure that lines of enquiry have been correctly identified, prioritised and actioned. If they have not then they should be completed if it is still possible to do so. Once this review is complete and the decision has been taken then the senior officer conducting the review will set a future review schedule, the timing of this schedule will depend upon the circumstances of the case. In most cases this is likely to be an annual review unless new information or intelligence is identified.
We know that the review process can be really frustrating for families with relatively little action being taken and little or no communication. Sometimes this is because there is work going on behind the scenes to continue the investigation into your loved one’s disappearance. However, sometimes forces do not prioritise reviews in the way they should be. You are entitled to be kept up to date on reviews.
Police guidance states:
“In most missing cases, the person will be found or will return in a fairly short period of time. Some cases will, however, take much longer to resolve and police activity may be less visible to the family or carers. It is important that, in these long term cases, the family and carers are kept up to date with developments and reassured that enquiries are continuing.”
Family and carers should be given reasonable expectations about ongoing contact during long-term cases. They should be told about the review process and when the next review is due, and updated on the outcomes. When discussing these matters police officers should ask family members and/or carers how and when they would like to be contacted and should consider the impact that the review process might have on them at each contact. Expectations in relation to the review process and its potential outcomes also need to be managed.
If you do not feel like these expectations are being followed by your police force you should ask to speak to the responsible officer and explain your concerns. If you still feel that they are not communicating reasonably regularly you can consider making a complaint.