Sexual Exploitation and Missing

Sexual Exploitation and Missing

It is estimated that in the region of 250,000 reports of missing persons are made to police forces throughout the United Kingdom each year* and 140,000 of these are children.

The link between Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and children and young people going missing is inextricable since going missing can be both a cause and a consequence of being sexually exploited.

Barnardos (in 2011) identified that 50% of sexually exploited young people they worked with in 2009/10 went missing on a regular basis and 2011-12, 128 of the children and young people contacting Missing People were identified as experiencing or at risk of CSE.

At present the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) definitions are as follows:

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 not at a place where they are expected or required to be.”

Typical examples of ‘absent’ may include:

  • Failing to return on time.
  • Staying at a known location, such as with a friend.

Thus, absent is to be used in cases where there are grounds to believe that the absence involves no apparent risk, or the level of risk is a tolerable one not meeting the threshold for a police-led missing person investigation. In such circumstances there will remain an expectation that reasonable enquiries will continue to be conducted by the reporting agency, after the report to the police. Should the circumstances subsequently develop to a determination that the person is in fact ‘missing’ an expedient police response will ensue. Hence, the police response is likely to differ between cases of ‘missing’ and of ‘absent’.

*Home Office (2010) The Missing Persons Taskforce: A Report with Recommendations for Improving the Multi-Agency Response to Missing Incidents. London: Home Office.