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Missing Persons Advocacy Network

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Missing Persons

What is the definition of “Missing People”?

Defining what is meant by the term ‘missing people’ is problematic: “There is certainly an implicit recognition by the police and by missing persons agencies of the problematic nature of a definition that originates with those left behind” (Biehal, Mitchell and Wade, Lost from View, 2003: 2).

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) defines a missing person as:> “anyone whose whereabouts is unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their well-being or otherwise established”. (ACPO, 2005: 8).

Malcolm Payne (1995) took a different approach, and defined ‘going missing’ as: “…a social situation in which a person is absent from their accustomed network of social and personal relationships to

the extent that people within that network define the absence as interfering with the performance by that person of expected social responsibilities, leading to a situation in which members of the network feel obliged to search for the missing person and may institute official procedures to identify the person as missing” (Payne, 1995: 335).

There will be circumstances where a person is missing but police involvement may not be

required, ie, tracing a long lost relative. Appropriate action may be a referral to other relevant agencies that may provide assistance.

There are several typologies of missing people have been developed to try and recognize the very different types of situations in which people go missing. Missing persons can be categorised within one of the following groups:

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