Breck Bednar murder case prompts police call handing training move
The police watchdog has called for better training for call handlers after finding that the mother of a schoolboy murdered by a teenager did not receive the support she needed when she rang to raise concerns he was being groomed online.
Computer engineer Lewis Daynes was jailed for life in January with a minimum of 25 years for the murder of Breck Bednar, 14, from Caterham, Surrey, who was found with a fatal neck wound at a flat in Grays, Essex, in February last year.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said it had written to the relevant National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) lead officers to urge them to share best practice nationally on the handling of grooming reports.
The investigation found the Surrey Police call handler and their supervisor lacked knowledge of dealing with grooming concerns and that Lorin LaFave, Breck's mother, had provided information when she called in December 2013 which should have flagged the potential risk of the boy being groomed.
The report found that a Police National Computer (PNC) check should have been completed and that Mrs LaFave was not provided with information about specialist agencies such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, which provides a reporting service and advice to parents who suspect someone of behaving inappropriately towards their child online.
A PNC record existed for Daynes for a previous alleged rape of a minor in 2011 in Essex.
The IPCC has written to the NPCC lead for child sexual exploitation, Chief Constable Simon Bailey of Norfolk Police, and the lead for children and young people, Deputy Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney of Sussex Police.
IPCC commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "Parents are increasingly aware that child abusers or extremists can use the internet to target potential victims online. Where they have concerns, parents must be able to turn to the police, and expect those concerns to be taken seriously.
"For that to happen, police call handlers need to be properly trained to recognise the danger signs and to give the right support and information. Sadly, in the case of Breck and his family, the support they needed was not given.
"Lessons must be learned; that is why I have written to the NPCC to ask them to consider current national guidance and to alert forces across England and Wales to our recommendations so forces can satisfy themselves that they have the right training and procedures in place."
The investigation found failings on behalf of the call handler that took Mrs LaFave's call, and their supervisor.
It concluded that the call was closed by people who had received child protection training and therefore should have known that further action was required.
Had both parties not left the force, they would have had a case to answer for misconduct.