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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Harry Taylor

Missing black and Asian people less likely to be found by police, report finds

A poster at Westfield in West London highlights the case of Alexander Sloley who went missing in 2008 when he was 16. He has never been found.
A poster at Westfield in west London highlights the case of Alexander Sloley, who went missing in 2008 when he was 16. He has never been found. Photograph: Felicity Crawshaw/Missing People/PA

Missing persons cases involving black and Asian people are less likely to be resolved by police than those involving white people, research suggests.

Black and Asian children are also likely to be missing for longer, the report, published by the charity Missing People, found.

The research, which incorporates a number of findings based on freedom of information requests to police forces and local authorities across the UK, suggests that a lower proportion of missing incidents relating to Black and Asian people were solved by the police, and that people of colour were less likely to be flagged as being at risk because of their mental health or in danger of child sexual exploitation.

The report said it painted a “worrying picture” for Black and Asian communities, and that concern expressed by those working with missing children or adults should “trigger action”.

It comes eight months after the Metropolitan police were forced to apologise by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) watchdog, which found that England’s largest police force did not take the case of Richard Okorogheye seriously enough.

The 19-year-old, who had sickle cell anaemia, was reported missing on 23 March 2021 and his body was found a fortnight later in a lake in Epping Forest in Essex. One call handler told his family: “If you can’t find your son, how do you expect us to?” which the Metropolitan police accepted was insensitive.

None of the three officers and three staff responsible faced disciplinary proceedings.

There have also been concerns raised about a lack of publicity about cases involving black adults and children.

In June last year, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) launched a police race action plan, aimed at tackling discrimination, addressing unfairness in the way black people are treated, and boosting the number of black officers and staff.

The NPCC’s lead for missing people, deputy chief constable Catherine Hankinson, said: “We recognise that some black, Asian and minority ethnic families have felt that their concerns over a missing family member were taken less seriously.”

The report found that 20% of incidents related to black children went on for longer than 48 hours, compared with 14% for Asian children and 13% for white children.

Black children were also 7% less likely to be found by police compared with white children.

It also found that black adults were more likely to be missing for more than 48 hours.

Jo Youle, chief executive of Missing People, said while it has been long known that black people are over‑represented in missing statistics there has been a lack of detail about how the identities and experiences of different ethnic communities intersect.

She said: “The disparities that have been identified are concerning and we need to understand what is driving them. We don’t have all the answers yet, but we know these findings paint a worrying picture for black and Asian missing people which we must address urgently.

“This report will be hard for many to read, but can be a moment for change if we deliver a national, multiagency commitment to understanding the experiences of people from minority ethnic groups who go missing or have a loved one go missing, and to ending any discrimination in the response to those missing reports.

“This work could help to build trust within black and other ethnic minority communities, ensure communities receive an equitable response, and potentially reduce harm experienced by missing people.”

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