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Rudd announces £1.9m for licence to practise pilot for child abuse probe police

Published 30/11/2016

Amber Rudd was making her first address to the College of Policing conference
Amber Rudd was making her first address to the College of Policing conference

Police investigating child sex abuse should be licensed in a similar way to doctors, the Home Secretary has said.

Amber Rudd, making her first address to the College of Policing conference, said the plans would ensure consistent standards across the country.

Her comments come amid police and Football Association probes into sex abuse in youth football, which Ms Rudd said showed the issue was "not going away".

The conference theme this year is vulnerability, which Ms Rudd described as one of the "most pressing issues" facing police forces.

The College of Policing, the professional body for police officers, will be given £1.9 million to fund a licence to practise pilot scheme.

Ms Rudd said: "It is important that only those who are absolutely qualified to perform critical roles dealing with the vulnerable are deployed to those situations.

"And that is why the Home Office and the College of Policing have been working closely together to develop a licence to practise.

"It will ensure that the public receive an assurance of competence and a delivery of consistent standards. It will also mean that police officers are not forced to take on roles that they are not prepared for or professionally trained to do.

"If your child was sick you wouldn't expect them to see a doctor with no experience in children's medicine and it's right to apply the same logic here."

An extra £26 million from the Police Transformation Fund, including the money for the College of Policing scheme, will be allocated to 28 projects over the next three years, Ms Rudd also announced.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the College of Policing, welcomed the funding and said the scheme meant officers could be placed on a register similar to those in other professions and barred from handling investigations if they fail to meet standards.

"I think it's a fundamental missing element in high-risk areas of policing," he said. "In every other profession people carrying out high-risk roles will be properly qualified and registered with their professional body to carry out that role - medicine is a great example.

"We haven't got all of that in policing, we've got something similar in police firearms and public order and undercover. We should have it in public protection, particularly child abuse investigations."

The college would begin a consultation next month before the scheme is piloted.

Lorin LaFave, the mother of 14-year-old Breck Bednar who was murdered after being groomed online, backed the move.

The 49-year-old said: "I would welcome anything that would make grooming more understandable to people that are investigating because, especially in my case, it was not recognised."

Computer engineer Lewis Daynes was jailed for life last year with a minimum of 25 years for the murder of Breck, from Caterham, Surrey, who was found with a fatal neck wound at a flat in Grays, Essex, in February 2014.

Daynes, 19, groomed his teenage victim through an online gaming group he ran and lured Breck to his home despite Ms LaFave's concerns and her call to the police.

She addressed around 300 police officers and victims support workers at the conference, in Ascot, Berkshire, and stressed the need for call handlers to be more aware of the warning signs when potential abuse is reported.

Mr Marshall also announced new guidance on psychological stress for officers investigating abuse, as well as those working undercover, in firearms and counter-terrorism, would be published next year.

The guidelines for forces, adapted from a military approach, aims to support officers suffering mental health issues as a result of their work.

He said: "There is a rapidly increasing self declaration from people in policing about mental health issues.

"We know that in high-risk areas like investigating child abuse and looking at indecent images online that those police officers and police staff are subject to high levels of stress and a huge volume of disturbing cases and material.

"We think they need vastly increased psychological support."

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said Ms Rudd's announcement was "piecemeal".

"The proposal for a licence for probing child sex abuse is welcome but this is not a strategy to tackle child sexual abuse," she said.

"This offering from the Home Secretary is a wholly inadequate response to the magnitude of the crisis in society and the tasks facing the police.

"The Tories have cut police numbers. Their Inquiry into child sexual abuse is failing and scandals continue to multiply. This is a piecemeal offering to the victims of child sexual abuse. They and we all deserve more from this Government."

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