Returning missing people: changing professional practice and policy

In the UK one person goes missing every two minutes on average. In 2019, 99% of 342,053 UK people reported in ‘missing incidents’ returned. Prof Hester Parr led award-winning ESRC-funded research gathering narratives of returned missing adults and their families (2011-2014). Findings from this research changed Approved Professional Practice on Missing Persons (England and Wales, 2016) and Standard Operating Procedures (Police Scotland, 2015), improving police protocols relating to returning missing persons and family liaison, and reaching all UK officers in England, Wales (c.125,000) and Scotland (c.17,000). Prof Parr and her team co-developed training with the UK College of Policing ‘National Search Centre’ and evidence demonstrates improved empathetic police officer practice towards returning missing people and their families. Professor Parr also used findings directly to shape government and voluntary sector changes, influencing UK charity and Scottish government policy priorities and guidance in this field, notably through the National Framework for Missing People (Scotland). She now chairs the Independent Working Group for Missing People in Scotland, at the invitation of MSP Ash Regan, and which works to guide improved multi-sector professional practice regarding the support of missing people.

First published: 10 May 2022