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Police response to an incident involving injury to a child

22 October 2015 - An Independent Police Conduct Authority report released today has found that failures by Police resulted in a young, vulnerable child not receiving the protection and service from Police which he should have.

In 2013 Police responded to two separate incidents at the boy’s home in Mount Wellington.

In the second, and more serious of these incidents, on 18 September 2013, Police received an emergency call advising that a woman and her son were being held against their will by gang members, and that the boy had been punched in the face.

Generally, Police took the complaint seriously.  They visited the mother and her son in hospital, and ensured that her house was clear of intruders.

However, there were three key failings that led to delays and poor service.

Firstly, no units were immediately available to respond to the emergency call, and Police failed to give adequate priority to the incident.

Secondly, after visiting the family in hospital, Police became suspicious that the child’s injuries may have been caused by child abuse.  However, they did not follow the Child Protection Protocol, which required them to notify a Child Protection Team.

Finally, Police did not follow the procedures in the Metro Auckland District Investigations Protocol. That sets out how offences that occur in one district, but are reported to Police in another district, are managed and investigated.

In this case, officers in Auckland failed to record the complaint and include initial documents before sending the case to Counties Manukau.  Officers in Counties Manukau who received the complaint then decided that they did not have enough information and sent it back to Auckland.

The Authority has found that it was their responsibility to initiate follow-up enquiries.  By not doing so, they failed to fulfil their duty.

In releasing this report, Independent Police Conduct Authority Chair, Judge Sir David Carruthers said that “it is crucial that all Police officers are open-minded to the various possibilities when dealing with a child who has been injured in unusual circumstances.”

“Further, it is the responsibility of every Police officer to have a good understanding of the internal procedures for reporting child safety concerns so that expert officers and other professionals can make a timely assessment.  The immediate and ongoing safety of a child must always be the first priority.  Consequently, it was unacceptable to presume that another officer would raise the flag.”

The Authority acknowledges that this situation was complicated by the fact that the incident and response took place across two different Police districts.  “However, all officers working in the wider Auckland area should have a good understanding of established Police protocols for dealing with cases across districts” Sir David said.

 

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