A 16-year-old girl was left for 44 hours without food or water while held in Nottinghamshire Police custody, a damning report has revealed.
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published an inspection report into the child protection work carried out by Nottinghamshire Police, following an inspection in September 2014.
Shock findings revealed significant delays in some child protection investigations, a lack of supervisory oversight and management of cases and children were being unnecessarily detained in police custody overnight; a
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “It is clear that that despite good work in many areas, Nottinghamshire Police needs to do more to improve its approach to protecting children.
“Staff managing child abuse investigations are dedicated, knowledgeable and hardworking. We found some areas of practice that are uniformly good, for example, the management of sex offenders.
However there is often a lack of effective supervision of child protection investigations, which sometimes results in unacceptable delays and an inconsistent approach across the force.
“We are also concerned to find that officers do not routinely check the welfare of children when investigating domestic abuse incidents.
“Another area of significant concern is in the detention of children in custody for their own protection under the mental health legislation. The most serious case we found was where a 16-year-old-girl had been detained in police custody for 44 hours, before custody staff realised that she had gone without food or water. It is essential that the force takes steps to ensure that this never happens again.
“I encourage Nottinghamshire Police to act on our recommendations as a matter of urgency, and I have asked that within six weeks it provides me with an action plan to demonstrate how it will take forward our recommendations for improvement”.
Over the next two years HMIC will assess how effectively each force in England and Wales safeguards children and young people at risk, make recommendations to forces for improving child protection practice, highlight effective practice in child protection work and drive improvements in forces’ child protection practice.
Assistant chief constable Steve Jupp, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “We recognise that people in crisis due to mental health should not be in police custody and we have made a public commitment with our partners that we will find an alternative solution to the use of police cells for children and adults detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act by March 2015 and October 2015 respectively.
“We never want to be in a position where children need to be taken into custody, whether for crimes or because of mental health issues and we continue to work with our partners to find alternative accommodation wherever possible.