Report on calls to children’s homes is criticised by police

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Suffolk and Norfolk police have criticised a pressure group’s interpretation of figures for officers being called to children’s homes.

The Howard League for Penal Reform had sent a Freedom of Information request to all police forces asking how often they were being called to homes and said there had been an increase across the country.

It added: “Research for the charity shows that children living in children’s homes are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to other boys and girls, including those in other types of care.”

It accused staff of resorting to the police ‘over minor incidents’ that families would have dealt with alone.

Its figures showed Suffolk Police had been called to the county’s 23 homes 82 times in 2013/14 and 200 times in 2014/15 while Norfolk had been called to 38 homes 435 times in 2012/13, 748 times in 2013/14 and 1,196 times in 2014/15.

But Suffolk Police said in its response to the FoI request: “Please note that calls relate to incidents and therefore it may transpire that no offences have actually occurred.”

Detective Superintendent David Cutler said; “As is mentioned by the Howard League, there are many reasons why the police may be called to attend children’s homes and this includes when children go missing or are victims of crime.

“The number of calls to children’s homes does not translate into children being criminalised. As a Constabulary we work to avoid the unnecessary criminalising of children and young people.”

Norfolk Police said: “The figures in the report should be treated with caution. The data provided to the Howard League is based on the number of calls made to Norfolk Constabulary’s Contact and Control Room from a children’s home; however, it may not necessarily relate to an incident at the location itself.

“It is possible that a call has been made from the address but refers to an incident that has taken place elsewhere.”

In 2015, Norfolk also introduced a system where an officer liaises with care home staff as a single point of contact.

Both forces say calls often relate to missing children.