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Missing persons

Northumbria Police takes every report of a missing person seriously. Most people who go missing return within 48 hrs. You don’t have to wait 24 hrs before reporting anyone missing. If there have been recent changes in the person’s mood or behaviour or something has occurred which could mean they are at serious risk of harm, then report them as missing immediately.

A missing person is

Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located and their wellbeing or otherwise confirmed.

What should I do if someone I know goes missing?

If you're worried someone you know has gone missing. You should make some initial enquires, these might be:

  • Search their home or the place they were last seen, in case they are hiding or fallen and suffered injury. Remember that children can hide in small spaces.
  • Look out for any notes or clues that may suggest where they may be. Check diaries, social media or email messages.
  • Check to see if they have left you a message on your phone voicemail or email.
  • Contact the person by phone, text, social media etc to establish their safety and wellbeing.
  • Contact family members, friends and the person’s place of work to verify that they are missing and not just somewhere unexpected.
  • Check places of significance to the person, i.e. parks where they may play, or gather with friends.
  • Check any CCTV or doorbell cameras if available.

When should I report someone as missing?

When someone you know cannot be located you should make initial enquiries with friends and family members to locate them and establish their whereabouts.

If you are concerned that the person is at serious risk of harm, could be in danger or vulnerable in some way you should report them missing to police.

If the risk is immediate, then police should be called straight away. You should dial 999 in an emergency to report this or 101 for non-urgent enquires. 

How should I report a missing person to the police?

A missing person can be reported to police at any time, you do NOT need to wait 24 hours before making a report.

Call 101 or visit a local police station. You can report it to us even if the person lives in another part of the UK or abroad.

In an emergency you should call 999.

What information do I need before I report someone as missing?

  • Name
  • Age
  • Description of person
  • Description of clothing
  • Home address
  • Location missing from
  • Circumstances of going missing
  • Name, address, contact telephone number and relationship to missing person of person reporting. If the missing person is in Local Authority Care, consideration should be given to obtaining alternative and out of hours contact details in case the investigation is ongoing when the person reporting goes off duty
  • Details of any vehicle or transport used
  • The relevant information concerning the person reporting the disappearance
  • Location of where the missing person might be
  • Any medication the missing person requires, frequency of taking and the effects if not taken
  • Information about known risks e.g. child known to be at risk of sexual/criminal exploitation, suffering from ill health (mental, Dementia etc.)
  • Information about any person who might have contact with the missing person, such as people with whom the missing person was found in previous incidents e.g. estranged parents or partners

What happens after I report someone as missing?

We will use the information that you supply to assess the level of risk that the person may be at while missing. We will then follow appropriate lines of enquiry to locate and safeguard the person.

If the missing person returns please let us know. We would like to see them after they return to carry out a prevention interview to see what we can do to support them.

What is the police role when someone returns or is found following a missing episode?

When a missing person is located the police will conduct a prevention interview with them to establish the reasons they went missing and identify what can be done to support them.

The questions that police will ask as part of a prevention interview are:

  • Have you come to any harm whilst missing? (CSE, rape, violence, self-harm etc.).
  • Why did you go missing? (Factors - abuse, bullying, domestic, school, work, financial, mental health issues, just stayed out, wanted family contact etc.)
  • What have you been doing whilst missing? (Consider self-harm, sexual/criminal exploitation, involvement in crime, County lines etc.)
  • How did you arrive at your destination (picked up by car, bus, etc.)
  • Did you travel alone or were any adults or young persons involved?
  • How did you make arrangements (Facebook/other social media, text, calls made, received calls, etc.)
  • Where have you been? (Places stayed/frequented, transport used, vehicle details, etc.)
  • Who have you been with?
  • How did you support yourself? (Given cash, gifts, food, accommodation, committed crime, etc.)
  • Have you used drugs, alcohol or other substances whilst missing?
  • Will you go missing again?
  • What will prevent you from going missing again?
  • Consent for referral to support services.
  • Officer professional judgement/ parent/carer considerations.

What support do the police offer?

Northumbria Police has a dedicated role for people who go missing. This is known as the 'Missing From Home Coordinator' they review daily missing reports to identify potential issues and risks surrounding missing persons at an early stage. This work is complimented by police neighbourhood and harm reduction teams.

They review repeat missing episodes and identify the root causes of missing episodes to effectively problem solve as a multi-agency approach

They act as a point of contact for partners, ensuring an effective working relationship is maintained, and encouraging the two-way exchange of information.

What is Operation Endeavour?

Operation Endeavour is a safeguarding arrangement between Northumbria Police and the six Local Authorities within our area and educational setting for children aged 4-17years to safeguard children and young people at risk of harm from going missing.

It involves the early sharing of missing from home episodes with schools and colleges to offer appropriate support to young people on their return.

The process is managed by the Multi-agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH).

Advice for agencies reporting missing adults

Advice for agencies reporting missing adults

Before contacting the police to report a missing person, you must have adhered to your agencies joint police protocols. Please refer to internal guidance / procedures within your organisation where you will find all relevant information and current practices for reporting missing adults to the police.

You must consider the following in all cases:

  • Do you have a critical concern for the person’s safety?
  • Has the Senior Clinician/Manager in charge been consulted?
  • Have you taken reasonable steps to locate the person?

Please see our flowchart for further information about when to report a missing person.

For the Multi-Agency response for Adults Missing from Health and Care Settings see The National Framework for further information.

View the joint missing adults protocol for more information. 

CNTW Mental Health Trust Missing Person Procedures

This missing procedure covers both in patients and community patients in receipt of CNTW Care.

You can view the protocol here.

What to consider before contacting police

Community Welfare Concern flowchart

Missing Inpatients flowchart

Hospital Missing Adult Patient Protocol

The Hospital Missing Adult Patient Protocol helps us understand a reasonable and proportionate police response when someone is missing from hospital.

You can view the protocol here

The Herbert Protocol

The Herbert Protocol is a national scheme introduced by the police in partnership with other agencies which encourages carers and family members to record useful information which could be used in the event of a vulnerable person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia going missing.

Herbert Protocol frequently asked questions

What is the form?

The Herbert Protocol form records all vital details, such as medication required, mobile numbers, places previously located, a photograph etc. 

Carers, family members and friends can complete a form advance of the person going missing. 

In the event of your family member or friend goes missing, the form can be easily handed to the police to reduce the time taken in gathering this information.

This form could make a real difference. It could help reduce the amount of time a vulnerable person is missing, bringing them to safety even quicker.

What should I do if the person I care for goes missing?

Carry out initial checks for the missing person. 

Inform family and friends, contact local clubs or places that the person may frequent. 

Contact 999

Inform the call taker that you use the HERBERT PROTOCOL and complete the red section of the form, before giving the form to police. 

Where should I keep the form?

You can fill in this form on your computer or print it out and fill it in by hand. Keep it somewhere safe where you can easily find it if the person goes missing. The form should be stored securely in the care setting, in accordance with data protection laws, but where you can find it quickly. The form could be stored by multiple people e.g. friends, family or neighbours.

It is recommended that multiple copies are made so that other care workers, neighbours or relatives have access if required. Review the information every 4 weeks or where there has been a change in personal circumstance.

You only need to give it to the police if the person goes missing. The police will ask you extra questions about what happened around the time of the disappearance and what the missing person was wearing.

The form should not be completed by police, nor should it be retained or stored on any police recording platform. The ownership for the form belongs with the family/carer responsible for the individual. The form is simply a method of adding completeness and efficiency to what police are told are told by the informant at the time of reporting.

Please make sure other relatives, carers or staff know where it is, and that the person it refers to is part of the Herbert Protocol.

Planning and prevention strategies for people with dementia

Reports of people with dementia who have gone missing while wandering away from home create a high police response. Wherever possible, planning and prevention measures should be developed to minimise the likelihood that a person who may wander will be reported as a missing person. Bespoke measures, appropriate for the person and their circumstances, will protect them from harm, provide reassurance for their family, and reduce the need for police involvement.

GPS Devices can include watches, smartphones and pendants. Functions vary by device, but may include GPS tracking, automatic fall detection and a personal alarm. They may also act as a ‘door alarm’ by sending an alert if the wearer leaves a specified location.

Tracking enables a family or other trusted contacts to be reassured that the wearer of a GPS devices can be located if they become lost, wander, or find themselves in difficulty. This function significantly reduces the need to involve police in a search.

Support available

In many cases, appropriate support for a person with dementia will go beyond this, and there are several police partners that can assist with wider concerns. This could be a person’s GP, community support, or their Local Authority. It may also include national and local charities, including:

Download the Herbert Protocol Form

The Philomena Protocol

The Philomena Protocol is an initiative that helps locate and safely return a young person in care as quickly as possible when they are missing.

Philomena Protocol frequently asked questions

What is the form?

The basis of the form is to record vital information about the young person to be recorded. This can be used to locate them safely and quickly.

We encourage carers and guardians to complete this form with as much detail as possible, then keep it somewhere safe – along with a recent photo.

The form needs to be regularly updated with new information on description, friends, associates, locations frequented, phone numbers and identifiers to maximise the opportunity for the young person to be found swiftly and safely.

That way, if a young person does go missing, you can give us all the information we need to start the search straight away – and you don’t have to think about significant information when you’re worried and upset.

What should I do if the person I care for goes missing?

Contact 999 where there is an immediate risk or 101 to report a missing child.

Conduct reasonable lines of enquiry to locate the child in line with what would be expected of a responsible guardian.

Tell the call taker that the child is subject of the PHILOMENA PROTOCOL.

Where should I keep the form?

The form should not be completed by police, nor should it be retained or stored on any police recording platform. The ownership of the form belongs with the family/carer responsible for the individual.

Keep the completed forms in a safe place where you can find them quickly. The forms may need to be located quickly, at any time of day or night, by the person who needs the information to begin the initial searches.

Once completed they will contain confidential information about the young person so they should be stored securely.

Download the Philomena Protocol Form

The Winnie Protocol

The Winnie Protocol is a scheme created by Northumbria Police and the Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Safeguarding Adult Boards to encourage professionals to record useful information which could be used in the event of an adult going missing. This will support Northumbria Police and partners to locate and support the individual in the event of a future missing episode and reduce the risk of harm.  The Winnie Protocol will be particularly useful for those adults who have repeat missing episodes.

Winnie Protocol frequently asked questions

What is the form?

The purpose of this form is to record important information about the person you support.  In the event the person goes missing – the form will be used by the police, care workers and partner agencies to understand the person’s routines, interests and information as fast as possible.  The form should only be completed with the consent of the adult, and ideally should be completed with the adult.

  • Complete the blue sections prior to possible missing episode
  • Complete the red sections when person goes missing

What should I do if the person I care for goes missing?

Carry out reasonable lines of enquiry to locate the missing person in line with the Joint Missing Adult protocol.

Contact 999 where there is an immediate risk of harm or 101 to make a missing person report.

Tell the call taker the person is subject of the WINNIE PROTOCOL.

Where should I keep the form?

The form should not be completed by police, nor should it be retained or stored on any police recording platform. The ownership of the form belongs with the family/carer responsible for the individual.

The form should be kept electronically in a safe place. 

The form must contain up to date information and be reviewed on a regular basis. Try and have several copies of recent, close-up photographs of the person, this may help your staff and the Police when searching for them. This form should only ever be printed on the request of a representative of Northumbria Police following the adult being reported missing. This information should be held securely and only used by the police to assist with enquiries into locating the missing person safely.

Download the Winnie Protocol Form

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