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Child Criminal Exploitation

This Spotlight Briefing summarises findings from analysis carried out by the Vulnerability Knowledge and Practice Programme (VKPP). The briefing aimed to reflect on the operational and/or strategic police practice learning drawn from two published Serious Case Reviews (SCRs) in context of the key relevant findings/recommendations around safeguarding children at risk of child criminal exploitation (CCE) published by the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel in March 2020.

Key findings include:

Recognition of exploitation and trafficking:

For both children, there was a slow acknowledgement that they were at risk and/or experiencing criminal exploitation and trafficking. This therefore limited the safeguarding response.

Professional curiosity:

For both children, they were initially being seen and responded to through the criminal justice system, rather than being afforded a safeguarding response. It was clear for both children that race, age and gender were integral features in how the boys were perceived and engaged with by professionals, including the police. Unconscious/conscious bias can impact on professional curiosity.

Case coordination/multi-agency working:

There is a clear role for police within the multi-disciplinary element of the case coordination. If police do not feel there is clear case co-ordination regarding a child they are concerned about, this needs to be escalated. Case coordination/multi-agency working is critical to enable effective management of risk.

Critical moments:

For both children, there were missing opportunities at ‘critical moments’ to safeguarding the child including; at point of arrest, when child went missing and when there was reported threats to life.

Parental engagement/risk to family:

Parents and extended family members need support to help them manage risk outside of the family home and also at point of increased risk e.g. supporting the family to understand the increased risk and consider proportionate safety measures. Proportionate safety measures are particularly important following arrest where drugs/weapons/phones may have been removed by police for investigation purposes or where threats for life had been received.

Acknowledging and responding effectively to escalation of risk:

For both children, there was an average of 3 threats/notable concern for safety raised to agencies with limited multi-agency safety plan responses.

Information sharing/timeliness of information sharing:

For both children, it is evident that there were missed opportunities to share information by the police or for information to be shared with the police by agencies. This includes sharing information when child is out of area.

Utilising disruption options:

Limited intelligence held by the professional networks related to both children, prevented disruption options being utilised. Limited use of disruption options available relating to CCE and trafficking prevented the exploitation from being disrupted.

Child’s voice/trusted relationship:

Although police do not have a role that enables long term relationship building, they can highlight the need for this approach and refer to appropriate services who offer this intervention. For both children, there were moments where the police had opportunity to hear the voice of the child such as in custody or completing a ‘safe and well’ check following missing episode.

Disproportionate impact on boys from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds:

We know from research and insights gained from the National Panel review on CCE boys from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are disproportionality impacted. Both children experienced being arrested on multiple occasions and their offences were within the most serious offence category (drugs/weapons). Both children also experienced being excluded from school.


The MET detention ‘Golden Hour’ has been adopted in some forces. This approach ensures that as soon as a child enters custody, the officers aim to contact the relevant Local Authority/MASH that the child resides within the hour which supports ‘real time’ information sharing and proactive safeguarding.

The briefing has been adopted within training delivered to police forces. The briefing has been used within partnership meetings to reflect on identification and action taken by that area in relation to child criminal exploitation, including considering disproportionality.


VKPP Exploitation SCR Briefing