By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2892

Met police guilty of ‘victim-blaming’ in child sexual exploitation cases

Officers described children as ‘making poor choices’ or ‘placing herself at risk’
Issue 2892
50 protesters with placards including "Police everywhere, justice nowhere" protest against the Met police sexism

Protesting at the Met police after the murder of Sarah Everard in March 2021 (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Instead of helping children suffering criminal and sexual exploitation, the Met police has a “prevalent” culture of victim-blaming.

An institutional hatred towards ordinary people means the Met isn’t protecting vulnerable children. His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) said the force has an “insufficient focus” on child exploitation and its response to sexual and criminal exploitation of children is “not effective”. 

This comes alongside a series of other reports that reveal the nature of the police and its officers.

The report accuses the Met of not effectively understanding “the nature and scale of child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation in London”.

HMICFRS examined 244 Met investigations and graded over half as inadequate. It found delays in action being taken, lines of enquiry not being followed and poor supervision.

It was so concerned about the cops’ approach to dealing with missing children that it reported its concerns before the inspection ended.

The report also says victim-blaming means the risks of exploitation are ignored. It shows “officers believe children are partially or wholly responsible for the abuse that has happened to them”.

Of 60 cases involving children who had been reported missing almost all were known or believed to be sexually or criminally exploited. In 33, cops’ language implied the missing children were in some way responsible or to blame.

Officers described children as “making poor choices” or “placing herself at risk”. In 184 investigations of exploitation 22 contained victim-blaming language and 100 had no evidence that the officer spoke with the child in-person.

A 14-year-old girl was described as “seeking out sex with older men”. A 15-year-old girl was referred to as “engaged in sex work”. And a 12-year-old girl who had been raped was described as “sexually active with older men”.

The report adds that frontline staff, investigators and supervisors don’t understand the links between child sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation and missing children. And “a consistent lack of understanding of risk” means cases are often graded incorrectly.

Out of 60 cases of missing children, cops graded 38 as medium risk instead of high risk.  The HMICFRS marked one grading as good, 15 requiring improvement and 43 as inadequate.

In one case a 14-year-old girl was known for being at risk of sexual exploitation and involved in county lines drug supply, and had been missing many times.

An officer graded her risk as medium because “absence is not out of character … [and she] actively seeks out older men”. And despite her abuser describing himself as her “boyfriend” at 20-years-old, the cops didn’t act.

Exploitation is often missed because investigators only deal with cases in isolation. And when a child is involved in several different investigations, they are allocated to multiple investigators.

Cases are also not followed or linked often because of outdated IT systems, and because information is missed out and names misspelt.

In one case cops in-putted 12 spelling variations of the same name across two systems, and information such as disability and ethnicity is “routinely missing from reports”. 


There are also “significant gaps” in efforts to stop children going missing, as officers “simply wait for them to turn up”.

Cops don’t have the “skills or knowledge” to investigate child exploitation, or any training in dealing with children. Instead they prioritise “the likelihood of a successful prosecution rather than safeguarding children”.

The report makes 11 recommendations and will reassess the Met, which is in special measures, this June.

The damning evidence shows that the cops don’t see children as vulnerable people who need protection. Instead they see them as a waste of time—whose abuse is self-inflicted.

While the findings are shocking, it shouldn’t come as a surprise from a force that was found to be institutionally misogynist, homophobic, racist and corrupt.             

  • Read His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ report here

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