The Independent Police Complaints Commission has written to the National Police Chiefs' Council to ask them to consider their current national guidance and to tackle reports of grooming more effectively. The move came after an IPPC inquiry into the death of 14-year-old Breck Bednar found shortcomings in how the police dealt with concerns raised by Bednar's mother before his death.
Bednar from Surrey was stabbed to death by Lewis Daynes, then 18, in his flat in Essex in February 2014 after he befriended Bednar online. Bednar's mother, Lorin LaFave had reported a change in his behaviour to police a few weeks earlier.
The IPPC inquiry found that LaFave's call should have alerted police officers to the possibility that he was being groomed. In January this year, Daynes, a computer engineer, was sentenced to life in prison with at least 25 years to be behind a prison cell.
The inquiry found that the Surrey police call handler who spoke to LaFave in December 2013, and the handler's supervisor lacked knowledge in dealing with grooming issues. It also found that LaFave was not given information about specialist agencies such as the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre which provides a reporting service and advises parents who suspect their child may be groomed.
In this particular case, a Police National Computer check should have been completed, the IPCC said. Daynes had a record listed on the national database for a previous alleged rape of a minor in 2011 in Essex.
IPCC commissioner Jennifer Izekor said: "Where they have concerns, parents must be able to turn to the police and expect those concerns to be taken seriously. She said police call handlers have to be properly trained to recognise the danger signs and to give the right support and information.
"Lessons must be learned; that is why I have written to the NPCC to ask them to consider current national guidance and to alert forces across England and Wales to our recommendations, so forces can satisfy themselves that they have the right training and procedures in place," Izekor added.
Surrey Police said it had carried a review of practices in its call handling centre and implemented changes to improve the way information was handled and shared. A staff member at the call centre who took the call from LaFave resigned from the force last August.