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3.11.2 Contacting the Police

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This procedure applies to all Looked After children.


Contents

  1. Requirement for Police Involvement
  2. Categories of Response
  3. Liaison between Children's Homes and the Police


1. Requirement for Police Involvement

A decision to contact the Police should normally be taken by the manager of the home or a foster carer in consultation with his or her supervising social worker and/or the child's social worker, unless a serious incident has occurred, in which case, staff/carers may contact the police immediately then inform a manager. See Section 2, Categories of Response.

The following situations are the most common ones police involvement might be requested:

1.1 Violent behaviour by one child towards another child

See also Behaviour Management, Discipline/Sanctions and Physical Intervention Procedure.

Such incidents will range from minor disagreements through to serious assaults where physical injury is caused. Such incidents can be complicated by having two vulnerable parties. 

Staff will need to ensure that health and safety reporting procedures are followed. 

Factors to be considered include (although the list does not reflect any order of priority):

  • Wishes of the victim;
  • Severity of the injury sustained/nature of threat received by the victim;
  • Probability of a repeat incident;
  • Previous relationship between victim and offender;
  • Potential impact on the child following formal police involvement;
  • Effectiveness of police action/court proceedings;
  • Future best interests of both parties;
  • Message sent to other children in the placement;
  • Availability of alternative causes of action, e.g. restorative approaches with the consent of the victim;
  • Previous behaviour or offending, bullying/peer pressure/duress.

1.2 Violence to staff/carers by a child

Violence towards staff/carers can vary from verbal threats to physical acts amounting to assault. Whilst each home has responsibility to care for the children in the placement, their welfare needs to be balanced with the rights of staff/carers not to be subjected to violence in the course of their duties. 

Such incidents are affected by factors similar to those listed in 2.1, and staff/carers should be encouraged to report any incidents that cannot be dealt with through alternative means. They should also report the violent incident and complete the health and safety procedures.

Where there is no immediate continuing threat of violence, it is in the best interests of the staff/carer to take time to discuss and consider possible options. 

These can include a referral to the Youth Offending Service, via the relevant social worker, which will give consideration to the necessary intervention. This however, does not remove the individual's right to involve the police. 

Following such incidents it is important that staff/carers utilise standard de-briefing processes - see Incidents Guidance.

Staff should also ensure risk assessments are updated or completed in relation to the risk of violence or injury to themselves or colleagues. A professionals meeting could be a useful method by which to assess these risks and look at ways this risk could be reduced.

1.3 Criminal Damage within the Home

The majority of criminal incidents involving Police relate to damage to a children's home or foster home. It is important to see these in the context of the needs of the child and whether involving the police is an effective and proportionate response. Factors to be considered include (although the list does not reflect any order of priority):

  • Level/value of damage caused;
  • Previous incidents of a similar nature by the same child;
  • Suitability or effectiveness of police involvement;
  • Impact of police involvement on the child's overall Care Plan;
  • Message sent to other children in the placement if applicable;
  • Availability of alternative courses of action, for example referral to the Youth Offending Service, via the relevant social worker.

1.4 Theft within the Home

Most offences of theft within the home are likely to be of low value (although it should be emphasised that value is a subjective issue relative to the victim), but this may be the possible start of criminal behaviour. Factors to be considered include (this list does not reflect any order of priority):

  • Wishes of the victim;
  • Nature and seriousness of the allegation;
  • Requirement for formal investigation, e.g. insurance claim requires a crime reference report;
  • Availability of alternative courses of action, e.g. restorative approaches.

1.5 Criminal Damage to Staff/Carers' Cars or Property

Factors to be considered include (although the list does not reflect any order of priority):

  • Nature and seriousness of the allegation;
  • Requirement for formal investigation, e.g. insurance claim;
  • Wishes and best interest of the victim;
  • Availability of alternative courses of action, e.g. restorative approaches.

1.6 Disorder in or around the Home

The area of disorder is subjective and requires judgement by staff to avoid unnecessary police involvement for minor infringements of discipline. Factors to be considered include (although the list does not reflect any order of priority):-

  • Nature and seriousness of the disorder;
  • Risk or threat of violence;
  • The wishes of and impact on the immediate community;
  • The availability of alternative courses of action.

1.7 Trespass within and around Home

All incidents of trespass by persons unknown should be reported to the police as visits/trespass by outside associates of children in the placement can be dealt with effectively under the criminal law. 

1.8 Substance Misuse

Please read this section in conjunction with Drugs and Substance Misuse Procedure.

The misuse of controlled drugs within a home is a serious issue and it is essential that the response is prompt and effective.

Where there is a suspicion that a child is using or holding illegal drugs in the placement, the Police should be contacted. 

1.9 Hate Crime (Racist, Religion, Homophobic, Gender, Disability)

All behaviour policies held within children's homes and foster homes should cover the areas indicated as hate crime and it must be made clear how staff, carers and children in the placement should deal with it, including that the Police will be contacted and the victim will be supported. 

In the recording of racist incidents the minimum required should be as follows:-

  • Reported to: (The person receiving the report such as Registered Manager, Unit staff, Police Officer);
  • At: (Location reported at): (i.e. Home, Police Station, etc.).
  • Referred by: (the Agency or other person referring the victim to the Police if the incident is being referred).
  • Time and date of report and nature of incident.

See also the Dealing with Incidents of Racial Harassment Procedure and the Good Practice Guidance Concerning Issues of Equality, Diversity and Sexuality for Looked After Children Procedure


2. Categories of Response

Staff/carers will generally manage problematic situations except where they are so severe that immediate police involvement is essential in order to avoid physical assault or damage. This procedure identifies three categories.

  • Serious Incidents;
  • Non Serious Incidents;
  • Liaison;
  • Internal Incidents.

2.1 Serious Incidents

Incidents of violence require an immediate police response where:

  • Children or staff/carers are at risk of immediate serious physical harm;
  • There is a risk of substantial damage to property; or
  • There is a risk of significant disorder with the home.

In such situations the senior member of staff on duty/foster carer should contact the police using the 999 system. If the manager of the home/carers' supervising social worker has not been consulted/informed prior to contacting the Police, s/he should be notified without delay. Out of hours the foster carers should inform the Emergency Duty Team.

The child's social worker and the Regulatory Authority must also be notified within one working day.

2.2 Non Serious Incidents

A non serious incident is where no immediate police response is required, for example where an assault or damage has occurred but there is no risk of recurrence/Significant Harm to people, or incidents of theft. The incidents should be reported to the home's manager/supervising social worker who then has the responsibility of identifying the appropriate course of action. 

It is important to avoid any unnecessary reporting of incidents to the Police. Should the manager/supervising social worker decide and/or should the victim wish that formal police involvement is necessary, where possible this should be through the Community Police Officer. 

In these cases, the child's social worker should be informed and they may wish to join the discussion with the Police.

In certain circumstances preservation of evidence may be an issue and residential staff/carers will need to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to retain articles relevant to any criminal allegation or police investigation. 

2.3 Internal Incidents

It is anticipated that relatively minor incidents will be addressed by using routine internal policies and procedures.


3. Liaison between Children's Homes and the Police

Police involvement should be on a risk assessment basis.

The primary police involvement in children's homes should be through the Community Beat Officer, meeting staff on a regular basis. Whilst some officers may already perform this duty it must be emphasised that a good working relationship is the most effective way to respond to young people with difficulties, and it is in this area that consideration should be given for joint agency training.

For children's homes, a regular liaison meeting, ideally on a four weekly basis, between the Community Beat Officer and registered manager would provide for discussion of non serious incidents within the home to identify the appropriate method of resolution, including:-

  • Internal action by staff with no police involvement;
  • Formal police investigation primarily by the Community Beat Officer and any resulting action.

This liaison meeting will also provide an opportunity to share more general views and co-operation and develop a better understanding of each agency's responsibilities and practices. 

It is not the intention of this procedure to restrict the options available to residential staff, foster carers and Community Beat Officers but to emphasise the importance of flexibility in determining the most suitable option for dealing with children who are Looked After.

For recording of Incidents, see Incidents Guidance.

End