Safe and well?
: police voices in managing the return of missing people, in England and Wales

  • Michael Harris

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this research was to examine the return process for people who are reported missing. A ‘Safe & Well Check’ is usually carried out by a police officer to prove the missing person has returned and are not in immediate harm. A Return Home Interview (RHI) must then take place with a child within 72 hours, but no statutory responsibility exists for adults. This more in-depth interview seeks to find out where people went and why, in order to identify potential risks to their safety and whether they experienced harm while they were missing. The frequency of this interview, who does it, the content, and subsequent sharing, varies within Constabularies, and from force to force. This study explored the limited existing literature relating to missing people in the last 20 years. A mixed methods survey of nearly 2,000 Constables from England and Wales ran in 2016, using quantitative and open qualitative questions. The thesis aims to address three objectives to 1. Explore the attitudes of police officers to return home interviews (RHI) of adults. 2. Explore the attitudes of police officers to RHI of children. 3. Examine whether the RHI should be the responsibility of third sector partners. Key themes that emerged were frustration at repetition of missing cases (3 or more), police negativity around usefulness of RHI’s, a challenge to involve third sector partners, and development areas in training. There was also variance in practice and difference in attitudes relating to officers’ gender, educational levels, RHI training levels and RHI experience. All of the groups had strong or noteworthy associations. There was statistical significance in reported RHI engagement levels and whom officers would least prioritise for interview. The study makes recommendations about best practice for the return process, advocating a more consistent, multi-agency approach to improve interventions.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorKaren Shalev (Supervisor) & Becky Milne (Supervisor)

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