Last week a Home Office-led progress report, “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation”, listed a National Missing Persons Register as a key future deliverable in the ongoing work to prevent child sexual exploitation (CSE) and develop a more robust response system. This tool has been championed by the charity Missing People and the National Police Chiefs' Council Lead for Missing People, Mike Veale. We are optimistic that a national approach to registering missing people could allow the police to find vulnerable people and make them safe faster. At the very least, this system will mean we can understand the national scale of missing children and adults in the UK in a more sophisticated way.
The 2016 report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, “Missing children: who cares?” recommended the introduction of a national database of missing children. We are delighted that last week’s report suggests that this database will be extended to missing adults too.
The inclusion of the national register in last week’s report also further highlights the strong link between missing children and CSE. A 2014 Office of the Children’s Commissioner inquiry suggests that 70% of sexually exploited children had also gone missing so it is vital that these connections are made in any strategic response. We are hopeful that a single consolidated database recording missing incidents will allow police to better identify trends and patterns in people being reported missing and therefore to support them in their response to all forms of exploitation. A national database will not only aid the investigation of CSE but also increase the ability of the police to tackle the exploitation of young people through gang involvement. Known as the “county lines” phenomenon, the exploitation of young people by criminal gangs is often characterised by the movement of exploited young people out of their home area so there would be an obvious benefit to a national system.
The proposed national approach to registering missing people could also mean that police will be able to more easily access the information they need to find vulnerable missing people and make them safe faster. If used in this way, during live time investigations, the system would have positive implications in the search for both children and vulnerable adults, for example those who have been missing on multiple occasions.
Jo Youle, Chief Executive of Missing People said: “This commitment is a positive step. The fact that a missing person moves outside a police force boundary should not stand in the way of them being found and made safe as soon as possible. We hope that a national register can help achieve this.
The inclusion of this National Missing Person’s Register in a report about the UK’s response to CSE is also encouraging. We know that many of the missing young people we hear from are at risk of or have experienced sexual exploitation and we are pleased to see this recognition of the clear link between CSE and missing in the government’s progress report.”