Skip to main content
Access keys Home News Site map Site help Complaints Terms Contact us

Part 1 – Police definitions and responses


Missing: A person will be defined as ‘Missing’ when their whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests that they may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another.

Absconder: An absconder is a ‘looked after child (LAC)’ who is absent from the placement without permission and who is subject to an order or requirement resulting from the criminal justice process (e.g. remand, curfew, tagging, conditions of residence, other bail conditions, PACE detention or ASBO), or a secure order made in either civil or criminal proceedings. A child in this category must be reported to the police without delay. Carers must also inform the child’s social worker or EDT. All missing cases where the child absconds should be subject to a police lead multi-agency meeting (Police Critical Incident Review).

Police response: Once a report of a missing child is made to police, a series of set questions will be asked in order to determine a risk assessment of low/medium/high and an officer deployed to commence inquiries proportionate to that level of risk. Initial inquiries will include visiting the scene (where child is missing from) to gather further information. Upon the missing person’s return a police debrief will be conducted. This is a basic safe and well check and not a return interview. Police missing persons coordinators are responsible for identifying safeguarding issues, and will work with partner agencies to tackle and reduce the incidence of repeat absence/missing episodes.

It is for the police to advise the media regarding a missing child and will do so in the best interests and welfare of the missing child. A decision to use the media to publicise the case of a LAC should always be taken in consultation with children’s social care.