Police need to do more to make sure children in West Norfolk are fully protected from the risk of abuse, a new report has said.
The county’s force was praised for much of its work on child protection in an assessment by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which was published on Friday.
But senior officers have been ordered to take immediate action to speed up analysis work in the force’s high-tech crime unit, in order to address a backlog of more than 60 cases.
They have also been told to submit an action plan within six weeks to address concerns over some inconsistent practice, risk assessments and officers’ access to information.
The report follows a two-week inspection of Norfolk Police in April.
All forces in England and Wales are set to undergo similar assessments over the next two years.
The document said: “Norfolk Constabulary has a strong commitment to child protection with a clear set of priorities and plans that support it.
“Inspectors found much good practice, but some weaknesses, which could affect the treatment of children.”
The inspectors concluded officers did not always do enough to assess the risk suspects posed to other vulnerable people, particularly in child sexual exploitation cases.
They were also unhappy with inconsistent practice for dealing with children caught up in high risk domestic abuse situations.
And they said officers attending an incident did not always have access to information about registered offenders who may be there, “at risk” families or any plans put in place for keeping children safe.
Chief constable Simon Bailey said the force had invested £750,000 in creating 14 additional jobs in its Safeguarding and Investigation Command because of the growing workload.
He added: “We constantly review our processes and I am encouraged by the report and its findings which I feel shows we are moving in the right direction. At the same time there are some clear lessons for us to consider in our work as we move forwards.
Meanwhile, the county’s police and crime commissioner, Stephen Bett, said he welcomed the reports, and would question Mr Bailey on how the inspectors’ concerns were being addressed at a public meeting on September 17.
He said: “I understand progress has already been made in some of these areas but I want to be reassured this is the case and suffice to say I will be monitoring progress closely.”