1.4.5 Police Powers of Protection

This chapter was added this manual in August 2017.

1. Introduction

In addition to their duty to investigate criminal offences the Police have emergency powers to ensure that the immediate protection of children believed to be suffering from, or likely to suffer Significant Harm. Such powers should only be used when necessary, the principal being that wherever possible the decision to remove a child from a parent or carer should be made by a court.

Any action taken under Section 46 of the Children Act 1989 may be subject to future scrutiny under the Human Rights Act 1998 which should be taken into account.

The immediate protection of children is the responsibility of the Local Authority, NSPCC and the Police. In the event that the situation warrants immediate intervention Police may take action under Section 46. However if it is necessary to remove a child the Local Authority should wherever possible apply to the Court for an Emergency Protection Order and should not seek to use Police Protection for this purpose.

In the event that there is a need to take immediate protective action in relation to a child out of working hours it is likely this will require the exercise of Police Protection Powers. Whilst it is possible for an application to be made by the Local Authority for an Emergency Protection Order out of hours it is likely that this will take significant time to arrange and this may not afford the child the immediate protection that is required.

During working hours there may also be the need for the Police to exercise their S46 Powers where the child is at immediate risk and the circumstances are such that there is insufficient time to apply for an Emergency Protection Order.

Examples of circumstances where it may be appropriate for the Police to exercise their Powers of Protection are set out below. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list as the determining factor is whether the child is at imminent risk and Police Protection Power is considered the most effective way of protecting the child:

  • In circumstances where a Child Protection Plan is in place for an unborn child to remain in hospital after birth; if a parent attempts to remove the child from hospital, Police Powers of Protection may need to be used to ensure the child remains in hospital until the relevant steps are taken;
  • In circumstances where a child is undergoing a medical investigation with regards to a suspected non- accidental injury; if a parent attempts to remove the child from hospital, Police Protection Powers may be used to ensure that the child remains in hospital until the medical investigation is completed and a Safety Plan formulated;
  • During a joint Section 47 Enquiry, where the child is considered to be at immediate risk, it would not be appropriate to leave the child in a position of risk whilst an application for an Emergency Protection Order is applied for.

It is important to note that there is no defined Police Protection Order and that the Court is not involved.

2. Application Procedure

Grounds under which this power may be exercised:

A child can only be taken into Police Protection, where a police officer has reason to believe that not to do so would mean that the child would suffer, or be likely to suffer, Significant Harm. That officer must:

  • Remove the child to suitable accommodation and keep him/her there; or
  • Take reasonable steps to prevent him/her being removed from a hospital or other place in which he/she is being accommodated. This could be a residential or foster placement.

The maximum period that any child can be kept in this way is 72 hours.

Police Protection does not confer Parental Responsibility, but the designated officer shall do what is reasonable in all circumstances of the case to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of the Child, having particular regard to the amount of time that the child requires this level of protection.

Having taken this course of action there are a number of actions that the officer is required to:

  • Inform the relevant Local Authority of the child's whereabouts, the action taken and the reason for doing so. On receipt of this information the Local Authority is required to make enquiries under Section 47 Children Act 1989;
  • Give details to the Local Authority where the child normally resides and where he/she is being accommodated;
  • Inform the child where he/she is capable of understanding;
  • To take steps to ascertain the wishes and feelings of the child;
  • Ensure that the case is enquired into by a designated officer;
  • Where a child is not being Accommodated by a Local Authority or in a refuge registered under Section 51, secure that he/she is moved to accommodation provided or approved by the Local Authority.

In addition the officer must:

  • Inform the child's parents;
  • Inform any person who is not a parent but who has Parental Responsibility;
  • Inform any other person with whom the child was living immediately before being taken into Police Protection.

The principles of close communication and interagency co-operation must ensure that no child taken into Police Protection need be accommodated in a police station at any time. This is to ensure that the trauma to the child be kept to a minimum.

3. Role of the Local Authority, Children's Social Care

The Local Authority must be informed as soon as possible when the police have taken any child into Police Protection. This is particularly crucial out of hours when these situations are most likely to arise. The police must inform the Emergency Duty Team by telephone so that Children's Social Care can be involved at an early stage in the enquiry and to provide any accommodation for the child.

On receipt of this information the Local Authority must invoke its Safeguarding Procedures (see Northamptonshire County Council's LSCP Procedures), if appropriate. A Strategy Meeting or Strategy Discussion must take place between the Police, Children's Social Care and any other relevant parties as soon as possible to discuss further action through Section 47 Enquiries, to ensure the continued protection of the child. In all cases when Police Protection is instigated, a Statutory Assessment must be initiated.

4. Accommodation

The decision to accommodate must be based on as full an assessment of the situation as possible, and must have the agreement of the relevant Service Manager.

In the case of potential placement with family and friends or other Connected Person, checks must be made in accordance with Regulation 24. For further information please see Placement with Connected Persons Procedure. The social worker must:

  • Ascertain the child's relationship to the carer;
  • Interview the proposed carer;
  • Check ICS to see if the applicant's have previously been known to the department and to consider the possible implication of any such prior involvement;
  • Check with the police, in respect of all person over age 16 within the household, to ascertain whether anything is known which suggests that the prospective carer(s) may not be suitable to be entrusted with the child;
  • Inspect the accommodation;
  • Obtain information about other persons living in the household over 16 years of age.

Any proposed placement with family or friends, or other Connected Person must be approved by the Nominated Officer before the placement is made. In cases where Police Protection is obtained, consideration should be given to not using placements with friends/family during the period of Police Protection. Placements with family/friends must never be used in cases of suspected forced marriage or honour based violence.

5. Contact

Where a child is in Police Protection or in accommodation provided by or on behalf of the Local Authority, the designated officer or the Local Authority must consider contact which is reasonable and in the child's best interests to the following:

  • The child's parents;
  • Any person not a parent but with Parental Responsibility;
  • Any person with whom the child was living immediately prior to being taken into police protection;
  • Any person in whose favour a Child Arrangement Order is in force;
  • Any person who is allowed contact under a Child Arrangement Order.

6. Ending a Period of Police Protection

The designated officer may release the child from Police Protection after completing the required enquiries unless to do so would leave the child likely to suffer Significant Harm. If this is the case, the Northamptonshire County Council's LSCP Procedures must apply.

The designated officer would need to check with the relevant Local Authority before taking such action. Under Section 44 the designated police officer has the power to apply for an Emergency Protection Order. This application can be made with or without the knowledge or agreement of the Local Authority (Section 46(7 and 8)). Good communication and inter-agency co-operation should mean that the police never make an application for an Emergency Protection Order without the knowledge or agreement of the Local Authority.