Met chief ‘dismissed child safety warnings’ in wake of Baby P case, says former detective | Metropolitan police

A former Scotland Yard detective who worked on child safeguarding after the Baby P scandal has accused the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, of failing to act on warnings of inaccurate or missing information in police databases, putting children at risk.

Bernadette Murray worked for a multi-agency team based in Haringey, north London, set up after the death of Peter Connelly, known as Baby P, in August 2007. Official reports found baby Peter had been failed by almost every member of staff who came into contact with him.

Murray, 58, who left the Met in 2017, says she found systemic failures to properly record information on children who may be at risk.

She compiled a 60-page report on child safeguarding failures but says in 2012, Rowley, then assistant commissioner for specialist operations, rejected her warnings.

The claims are revealed in a new paperback edition of the book Broken Yard: The Fall of the Metropolitan police by Tom Harper to be published this week. Murray said this weekend: “There was zero willingness to look at the failures. I couldn’t believe it.” She said her findings were later confirmed by an independent police inspection.

Murray was attached to the First Response Multi Agency Team which involved police, social services and the NHS. Its key objectives were to ensure every child would be assessed where professionals had raised concerns and information would be effectively shared between the agencies.

She was alarmed that information was being regularly entered into the police databases incorrectly, without the required flags or markers to ensure frontline officers would be alerted to a vulnerable child.

She said: “These systems are designed to map out the interaction of young children between the police and other agencies. Details were collated in the wrong area, which tainted the data and hid the truth. This corrupted search results for the police across the UK and Europe.”

Former Scotland Yard detective Bernadette Murray said a later inspection had confirmed her findings. Photograph: Richard Saker/The Guardian

According to Murray, what was even worse was that some files involving children on the Crime Report Information System (CRIS) were being “locked”, so they could only be seen by more senior officers. The reasons for a locked file were not always clear and it again meant frontline officers may not be aware of children at risk.

In March 2012 she sent a report to the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards, raising concerns about alleged specific failures in the child abuse investigation team at Haringey and the wider failures in information kept on databases on vulnerable children. She cited the case of a two-year-old girl in Tottenham who was found on the kerb and whose CRIS file was later locked for no clear reason.

Murray, who was a detective sergeant, claims the matter was raised all the way up to the then commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and he asked Rowley to look into the concerns.

Rowley said in a letter of 23 August 2012 that a thorough review had found police were complying with procedures and that crime reports involving children could be locked in “appropriate circumstances” with the appropriate checks and balances. It concluded there were no ongoing concerns about the child in Tottenham.

Murray was furious and the concerns she raised about intelligence failures on the police database appear to have been vindicated by a 2016 report on an inspection of child protection services in the Met by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, now HMICFRS.

The report found it was the responsibility of individual officers to apply flags or markers for children who were at risk and the system was “neither universally adhered to nor universally understood”.

It warned: “The picture that emerges is one of significant gaps in information and therefore missed opportunities to act quickly and decisively to protect children.” It recommended a package of measures to improve child protection and has since published a number of updates on this work.

Murray said Rowley should have launched a proper investigation in 2012. She said: “The HMIC report supported everything I had uncovered.” She said she was angered by the decision to make Rowley the new commissioner in 2022.

A Metropolitan police spokesperson said: “Our focus is on delivering more trust, less crime and high standards for Londoners. We will not be commenting on the claims made in this book.”

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