Posted: November 7, 2016
Today sees the launch of the report ‘Collateral Damage’, an inquiry into the impact of police home raids on the children and siblings of offenders in England.
Inspired by Our Voice, a Pact project that works with children and young people affected by familial imprisonment, the study aims to raise awareness and inform best practice amongst police and policy makers to minimise the harm and trauma that can be caused to the estimated 80,000 children per year* who experience police home raids when a parent or family member is arrested.
As part of the report, Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were submitted to all 39 English police forces. The responses showed that only one provided any training that raised awareness of the issues of children being present at arrest. Forces were also asked to supply details of the risk assessment procedure that is undertaken before a raid on a residential property. Only 2 of the 39 made any reference to children being in the property, and both of these included children in the same category as dogs and animals.
During the inquiry, the testimonies of families, children and young people who have experienced home raids first hand were gathered.
A young man who was interviewed talked about the day his home was raided when he was 12 years old. “They told me to get off my bed. They shoved me in a room and told me not to move off the sofa. It was like I had done something wrong. I felt like an object. I was being pushed around. I felt very, very small. It was a very traumatic experience and I was just really, really scared. I didn’t know what was going on.”
A mother whose house was raided in the early hours of the morning when her husband was arrested, wrote about the impact it had on her young daughter who was in bed at the time: “She still has nightmares that are so bad she wakes up trembling and shaking. We were offered no support by the Police or other agencies. I know the police have a job to do and I know that my husband is where he should be, but my daughter didn’t ask for any of this.”
Author of the report, Jo Tilley-Riley said: "Each year thousands of children in England experience the trauma of having their home raided and searched, and watching a family member being arrested. By ignoring this, we risk casting these children into the strong currents of criminality – making them fear and distrust the police and leaving them scared and angry.
But there is a real opportunity for the police to work in partnership to protect these children from unnecessary harm and trauma. And the solutions can be cheap and simple. With some basic training and understanding of the issue, the police will not only be able to do their job, but also protect the next generation."
Pact CEO, Andy Keen-Downs said: “As a Society, we depend on the courage and professionalism of the police to protect us and uphold the rule of law, and we understand that sometimes this means breaking down doors or entering family homes. But what this report confirms for us is that there is an urgent need to recognise the harm that this causes to children who, through no fault of their own, go through the terrifying and traumatising experience of their homes being raided, sometimes in the middle of the night, and of a parent or family member being arrested, handcuffed, and taken away. It is quite shocking that there is no automatic follow up support offered to these children. We therefore need to ensure that we have adequate safeguards in place and we invite Police & Crime Commissioners, police forces, magistrates and others to work with us to find solutions.”
Well known actor, author, former Monty Python member and Pact supporter Michael Palin commented on the report: “This important study shows that the impact on children at home when their house or flat is raided by the police is profound, and questions need to be asked about how the shock and trauma suffered by children in these raids can be understood and alleviated.”