Missing Persons

Northern Ireland written question – answered on 5th March 2007.

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Photo of Sylvia Hermon Sylvia Hermon UUP, North Down

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many missing persons were recorded in each police district command unit area in Northern Ireland in each of the past five years; and what training and support has been provided to police officers in Northern Ireland in dealing with such cases.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Northern Ireland Office

In April 2006, the Police Service of Northern Ireland introduced the National Standards for Incident Reporting (NSIR). NSIR set new standards for the recording of non-crime incidents and enables figures from the command and control system to be accurately collated for the number of incidents where a person has been reported missing to the police. Therefore figures are only available from 1 April 2006. The information prior to this would require a manual trawl of documents in each DCU and would be available only at disproportionate cost.

The PSNI has provided the following table detailing the number of incidents of missing persons, by DCU, from April 2006 to January 2007.

Number of incidents by District Command Unit, 1 April 2006 to 31 January 2007
Missing person:
DCU high risk medium risk low risk unauthorised absence
Antrim 25 51 96 2
Ards 33 41 58 12
East Belfast 31 73 75 14
North Belfast 62 67 136 171
South Belfast 34 54 100 169
West Belfast 25 46 49 320
Carrickfergus 7 15 30 0
Castlereagh 20 41 42 4
Larne 11 11 16 2
Lisburn 75 66 113 11
Newtownabbey 30 37 41 9
North Down 63 75 55 19
Armagh 23 25 55 27
Banbridge 16 9 31 19
Ballymena 8 15 30 21
Ballymoney 1 7 12 0
Coleraine 23 40 112 5
Cookstown 5 5 15 2
Craigavon Dungannon 20 51 107 103
South Tyrone 5 5 57 64
Down 20 21 46 14
Fermanagh 26 38 189 205
Foyle 49 57 168 120
Limavady 49 7 41 99
Magherafelt 3 4 5 14
Moyle 1 1 7 0
Newry and Mourne 45 30 65 59
Omagh 18 12 44 12
Strabane 12 14 19 0
Northern Ireland 740 918 1,814 1,497
Notes:

1. 'Missing person—high risk'= the risk is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the subject is in danger through their own vulnerability or mental state or the risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the public are in danger due to the subject's mental state.

2. 'Missing person—medium risk' = the risk posed is likely to place the subject in danger or they are a threat to themselves or others.

3. 'Missing person—low risk' = there is no apparent threat or danger to either the subject or the public.

4. 'Missing person—unauthorised absence' = this category is only to be used for children in care. It is designed to cover those situations where the child is absent or out beyond an agreed time.

Source:

Central Statistics Unit

PSNI

In relation to the provision of training and support for PSNI officers dealing with such cases there are currently two PSNI general orders giving instruction to police officers in responding to missing persons' investigations. One relates to the actual investigation and the other relates to the circulation of details on police computers. Condensed versions of the key points and student officer training notes have been compiled for officers and are available on the PSNI intranet site.

Student officers at the police college receive full lessons in dealing with missing persons including initial action with emphasis on crucial time factors, completing police procedures, risk assessments and vulnerable persons. The students individually complete a practical scenario about a missing 16-year-old boy. The students also receive inputs from community organisations such as the Simon Community, St Vincent de Paul, and the Salvation Army at a community fair evening. Detectives at all ranks in the PSNI receive training on dealing with missing persons and this training is built into their initial detective training course. Missing person scenarios are also included in critical incident training for senior officers.

Service instructions are currently being revised in light of recent guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) on the recording, managing and investigation of missing persons. In addition the PSNI is examining the area of children and young persons absconding from residential care homes as separate guidance. A pilot project involving three residential care homes has recently been completed and the initial instructions are being revised in light of the outcome of the evaluation of this pilot. The PSNI is in liaison with Social Services in respect of this policy.

The PSNI also has a 'missing persons' intranet site which provides information for the circulation of missing persons on the 'Missing Kids' website and the missing persons pages on the PSNI internet site. The 'Missing Kids' website is a partnership between police forces, the Police National Missing Persons Bureau (PNMPB), an international charity—the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC)—and a commercial sponsor—Computer Associates plc (CA). The initiative has the support of ACPO. The 'Appeals/Missing Persons' pages on the PSNI internet site provide pictures and details of those persons reported as missing to the PSNI as well as links to other support organisations.

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