1.5.4 Investigation Strategy for Harbourers of Children and Young People
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in April 2015 in light of the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policy Act 2014. Under the Act, Risk of Sexual Harm Orders and Sexual Offences Prevention Orders were replaced with Sexual Risk Orders and Sexual Harm Prevention Orders. See Section 2, Relevant Legislation for more information.
1. Police Investigation Strategy in Respect of Harbourers
Certain individuals allow young people to stay at their homes without informing the parent or carer of the young person. They either directly or indirectly encourage them to go missing and to stay away from their carers. This can lead to an increase in the number of young people who are reported as being missing or absent.
Some of these individuals actually target these young people for the purpose of grooming or involving them in child sexual exploitation. Serious offences are usually difficult to prove due to the lack of co-operation of the young person.
This procedure aims to identify, warn and where necessary prosecute these individuals for harbouring or abduction in order to disrupt this activity.
The aims of this investigation strategy are to:
- Protect children and young people from exploitation and significant harm; and
- To discourage harbourers from inducing, assisting, or inciting a child to run away or stay away from their carer.
Advice or Warning
If the harbourer has no malicious intent, officers should seek the co-operation of the harbourer wherever possible. Officers should use their discretion to decide whether advice or a formal warning will be more effective in changing the behaviour of the harbourer.
Number of Warnings
Officers must also use their discretion as to the number of warnings that should be issued:
- If the harbourer is suspected of sexual exploitation or other abuse, consideration should be given to securing sufficient evidence to prosecute at the earliest opportunity;
- However if the harbourer has no malicious intent, the primary aim is to ensure the warnings are effective so that a prosecution is not necessary.
- Gain access to the premises;
- Remove the child/ young person to a place of safety;
- Secure and preserve evidence;
- Ascertain whether the suspect has been previously warned for harbouring in respect of this child / young person;
- Consider issuing a standard/ final warning;
- If previously issued a final warning, then consider arrest / interview and prosecution of the suspect.
Gaining access to Premises
S17(1)(e) Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
A constable may enter and search any premises to save life or limb or prevent serious damage to property.
Emergency Protection Order
The Emergency Protection Order may authorise the applicant to enter specified premises to search for the child.
The Court may also issue a warrant authorising a Constable to assist the applicant mentioned above and use reasonable force if necessary.
Where the child is subject to a care order, an emergency protection order or is in police protection, a Recovery Order can be sought if entry is refused.
Remove the Child / Young Person
If a child / young person is located at the home of a suspected harbourer then:
- A constable should remove the child and any other children at risk to a place of safety if the constable has reasonable cause to believe that the child/ children would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm;
- Consider contacting the Child and Public Protection Unit and arranging medical examinations and video interviews;
- There is an implied power to use reasonable force to take a child / young person into Police Protection.
On the first occasion that a child is located in the company of a person not connected with the child, the officer must use their judgement to decide if the circumstances indicate that the individual is inducing, assisting or inciting the child to runaway or stay away from their carer. Officers should use their discretion as to whether or not a formal warning is appropriate.
Secure and Preserve Evidence
Obtain as much evidence from the scene as possible:
- Record any admissions made by the child or defendant;
- Record any hearsay evidence from other witnesses or children present;
- Look for objective indications of a sexual element to the relationship between the child and defendant:
- DVDs or magazines with sexual content that are clearly visible;
- Inappropriate photographs taken of the child;
- Inappropriate photographs taken of the defendant that the child has access to;
- Computers turned on connected to inappropriate chat rooms;
- Signs that the child and defendant were both sleeping in the same room/ bed;
- Condoms or sex toys visible in the room;
- Over familiar contact between the child and defendant;
- Inappropriate text messages sent between the child and defendant;
- The child or defendant being inappropriately dressed in each others company;
- Excessive gifts being bought by the defendant for the child;
- The child and defendant having pet names for each other.
- Seize any evidence immediately under S19 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 whether or not you make an arrest.
Ascertain whether Previously Warned
Ascertain whether the suspect has been previously warned for harbouring in respect of this child / young person.
This can be done by checking OIS.
The Standard Warning is only appropriate where it is believed the suspect has no malicious intent. If the suspect is suspected of grooming or sexually exploiting the child / young person then officers should go straight to the Final Warning or in serious cases arrest.
Officers should use their discretion as to the number of Standard Warnings that should be issued taking into account the stated aims of this investigation strategy.
- The Officer / PCSO should:
- Verbally warn the suspect that:
- The carer has not given their permission for this child to stay with the suspect or be in the suspects company;
- If the child should return again they should not let them into their house;
- That the child is under 16 and / or in the care of the Local Authority; and
- If they do not co-operate then they will be liable to being prosecuted under S2 Child Abduction Act 1984 or S49 Children Act 1989.
- Record details of this warning in their Pocket Notebook;
- Submit a Form A intelligence report;
- Inform the Divisional Missing Person Co-ordinator of the action that has been taken.
- Verbally warn the suspect that:
- The Divisional Missing Person Co-ordinator should then:
- Liaise with Children's Social Care Services to discuss whether a written warning should be sent or alternatively whether it would be more advantageous to seek the co-operation of the harbourer;
- If it is decided that a written warning should be sent, ensure a follow up letter is sent by recorded delivery to the suspect on behalf of the Police Service and relevant Children's Social Care Services Department confirming the Standard Warning (the letter should clearly state the age of the child, the date of birth of the child if aged 15 and that the child is in the care of the Local Authority if applicable);
- Retain a copy of the warning letter;
- Instruct the parent / carer to tell their child that they are absolutely banned outright, with no exceptions, from visiting the address or associating with the suspect;
- Liaise with the Local Authority Housing Department or Housing Association to ascertain whether the harbourer is in breach of any term of their tenancy agreement and if so encourage the other agency to consider appropriate enforcement action.
- Should the child or young person be found again in the company of the suspect or at any address that the suspect is residing or at, the officer / PCSO should:
- Issue a final verbal warning;
- Record details of the final warning in their Pocket Notebook;
- Submit a Form A Intelligence report;
- Inform the Divisional Missing Person Co-ordinator of the action taken;
- The Divisional Missing Person Co-ordinator should then:
- Obtain a statement from the parent / carer that confirms:
- That they are the parent of the child;
- The name and date of birth of the child;
- That they "have absolutely banned outright, with no exceptions (name of child) from visiting any address at which (name of suspect) is residing or at and / or from associating with (name of suspect) at any place whatsoever";
- That they "are the person with lawful control over (name of child) and can say that (name of suspect) has no lawful authority to take, remove, keep or detain (name of child) from (their) lawful control";
- That they "believe that by making this statement (they are) acting in the best interest of (name of child) and support police action";
- That they consent to the use of a photograph of (name of child) when the police issue a "Final Warning" to (name of suspect)".
- Obtain a photograph from the parent / carer;
- Visit the suspect with the relevant Social Worker (wherever possible) to verbally warn the suspect, show the photograph and hand deliver the warning letter (Misper 3 or 3a);
- Request statements from all officers / PCSOs who have issued the verbal warnings;
- Prepare a briefing item for operational briefings.
- Obtain a statement from the parent / carer that confirms:
- The purpose of the Final Warning is to prevent the defendant successfully raising the defence that s/he:
- Did not know the age or identity of the child / young person; and
- Did not know that s/he did not have permission to allow the child / young person to stay with them or be in their company.
Arrest / Interview
If the defendant is again found in the company of the child / young person:
- if the child is under 16:
- The defendant should be arrested for an offence of abduction contrary to S2 Child Abduction Act 1984;
- The defendant should be interviewed for offences contrary to S2 Child Abduction Act 1984 and S49 Children Act 1989 if the child is in care;
- If there is sufficient evidence, the defendant should be charged with the most appropriate offence.
- if the child is over 16 but in care:
- The defendant should be invited to attend the police station for interview;
- If there is sufficient evidence the defendant should be reported for summons for an offence contrary to S49 of the Children Act 1989 after interview, or if the defendant refuses to be interviewed;
- Inform the Divisional Missing Person Co-ordinator about the action you have taken.
Disclosure of Information
Each agency should consider whether it is appropriate to exchange information to enhance the protection of children / young people and protect them from sexual exploitation and significant harm.
Information should be disclosed where it is necessary to protect a child / young person from significant harm.
Data should only be exchanged in accordance with Data Protection Principles and the principles of proportionality, necessity, subsidiarity and lawfulness.
Details of information disclosed by the Police, including its source, and the justification for disclosure must be recorded at the time of its disclosure. The preferred method of recording disclosure is on the Vivid database.
2. Relevant Legislation
Abduction of Children in Care
This offence applies to any child / young person subject to a care order, emergency protection order or in police protection.
This applies even if the child / young person is 16 or over.
A person is guilty of an offence if, knowingly and without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, he:
- Takes a child to whom this section applies away from the responsible person;
- Keeps such a child away from the responsible person; or
- Induces, assists, or incites such a child to run away or stay away from the responsible person.
POINTS TO PROVE
- That the offender knew:
- That the child is subject to a care order, emergency protection order or in police protection;
- That the offender knew that the responsible person had not given their permission for the child to stay with the offender.
- That the offender has either:
- Taken the child;
- Kept such a child away from the responsible person; or
- Induced / assisted / incited such a child to run / stay away from the responsible person.
Abduction of Child
This offence applies to any child under 16.
This applies even if the child is not subject to a care order, emergency protection order or in police protection.
A person not connected with the child is guilty of an offence if, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, he takes or detains a child under the age of 16:
- So as to remove him from the lawful control of any person having lawful control of the child; or
- So as to keep him out of the lawful control of any person entitled to lawful control of the child.
A person is connected with a child if:
- He is a parent of the child; or
- In the case of a child whose parents were not married to each other at the time of his birth, there are reasonable grounds for believing that he is the father of the child; or
- He is the guardian of the child; or
- He is a person in whose favour a Child Arrangements Order is in force with respect to the child; or
- He has custody of the child.
POINTS TO PROVE
- That the child was under 16;
- That the offender acted without lawful authority or reasonable excuse;
- That the offender was not connected with the child;
- The offender took or detained the child;
- So as to remove / keep him / her from lawful control.
Power to Remove to Place of Safety or Prevent Removal from Place of Safety
Where a Constable has reasonable cause to believe that a child would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, he may:
- Remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him there; or
- Take such steps as are reasonable to ensure that the child's removal from any hospital, or other place, in which he is then being accommodated is prevented.
This is the primary power for the police in emergency situations.
Order to Produce Child on Request and Remove Child
A Recovery Order allows a court to order the recovery of a child who has been prevented from returning to his / her lawful guardian or has run away.
A Recovery Order can be made in respect of any child / young person subject to a care order, emergency protection order or in police protection.
A court can make a Recovery Order where it appears to the court that there is reason to believe that a child to whom this section applies:
- Has been unlawfully taken away or is being unlawfully kept away from the responsible person;
- Has run away or is staying away from the responsible person; or
- Is missing.
EFFECT OF AN ORDER
A Recovery Order:
- Operates as a direction to a person able to do so to produce the child on request to an authorised person;
- Authorises the removal of the child by an authorised person;
- Requires a person who has information as to the child's whereabouts to disclose it, if so requested, to a constable or an officer of the court;
- Authorises a constable to enter any premises specified in the order and search for the child, using reasonable force if necessary.
It is an offence to intentionally obstruct a person from removing a child under a recovery order.
The SRO may be made by the magistrates' court on application by the police or National Crime Agency (NCA) where an individual has done an act of a sexual nature and as a result is considered to pose a risk of harm to the public in the UK or adults or vulnerable children overseas. A child is defined as being under 18.
EFFECT OF THE ORDER
The order prohibits the defendant from doing anything described in the order.
An individual who is subject to a SRO is required to notify the police of their name and home address within three days of the order being made, and also to notify any changes to this information within three days.
A SRO lasts a minimum of two years and has no maximum duration, with the exception of any foreign travel restrictions which, if applicable, last for a maximum of five years (but may be renewed).Breach of an order is a criminal offence punishable by a maximum of five years' imprisonment, the criminal standard of proof continues to apply, the person concerned is able to appeal against the making of the order, and the police or the person concerned are able to apply for the order to be varied, renewed or discharged.
Sexual Harm Prevention Orders can be applied to anyone convicted or cautioned of a sexual or violent offence, including where offences are committed overseas.
The court needs to be satisfied that the order is necessary for protecting the public, or any particular members of the public, from sexual harm, or protecting children from sexual harm from the defendant outside the United Kingdom.
The Orders prohibit the defendant from doing anything described in the order, and can include a prohibition on foreign travel (replacing Foreign Travel Orders which were introduced by the Sexual Offences Act 2003).
A prohibition contained in a Sexual Harm Prevention Order has effect for a fixed period, specified in the order, of at least 5 years, or until further order. The Order may specify different periods for different prohibitions.Failure to comply with a requirement imposed under an Order is an offence punishable by a fine and/or imprisonment.
S24 Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984
A constable must have reasonable grounds for believing that the persons arrest is necessary to:
- Obtain / verify the name of the person;
- Obtain / verify the address of the person;
- Prevent physical injury to the suspect or any other person;
- Prevent loss or damage to property;
- Prevent an offence against public decency;
- Prevent unlawful obstruction of a highway;
- Protect child / vulnerable person;
- Allow prompt and effective investigation of the offence / conduct of the suspect;
- Prevent any prosecution being hindered by the disappearance of the suspect.