Missing children and police action

The Metropolitan police service, as the lead agency for investigating and finding missing children, will respond to children and young people going missing or being absent based on on-going risk assessments in line with current guidance. A child whose whereabouts are known would not be treated as either ‘missing’ or ‘absent’ under the current police definitions.
The police will prioritise all incidents of missing children as medium or high risk.

 When abduction is suspected, the situation must be referred to the Police immediately as a criminal matter.

The current police definitions of ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ are:

Missing:  Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another’.

Absent:  A person is not at a place where they are expected or required to be’.

NB Absent without Consent:  Some children absent themselves for a short period and then return: often their whereabouts are known. They are not considered at risk and usually they are testing boundaries.   Sometimes children stay out longer than agreed either on purpose or unwittingly. This kind of boundary testing activity is well within the range of normal teenage behaviour and does not come within the definition of “missing” for the purposes of this procedure. These children are usually regarded as children “who are absent without consent”. This does not apply to children of primary school age who should be referred immediately if missing.

Risk Assessment
The police will prioritise all incidents of missing children as medium or high risk. Where a child is recorded as being absent, the details will be recorded by the police, who will also agree review times and any on-going actions with the person reporting.

A missing child incident would be prioritised as ‘high risk’ where:
• The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the child is in danger through their own vulnerability or that the public is in danger
• The child may have been the victim of a serious crime

The high risk category requires the immediate deployment of police resources. Such cases should lead to the appointment of an Investigating Officer and possibly a Senior Investigating Officer and a Police Search Advisor (PolSA). There should be a media strategy and / or close contact with outside agencies. Family support should be put in place. The UK Missing Persons Bureau should be notified of the case immediately. CEOP and local authority children’s services should also be notified.

A missing child incident would be prioritised as ‘medium risk’ where the risk posed is likely to place the subject in danger or they are a threat to themselves or others. This category requires an active and measured response by police and other agencies in order to trace the missing person and support the person reporting. This will involve a proactive investigation and search in accordance with the circumstances to locate the missing child as soon as possible.

The Police will carry out a ‘Safe and Well’ check with a 'missing' child who returns and will also carry out an independent “Return Review” interview in exceptional circumstances.