National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland

Document providing a focus for all agencies with an interest in missing people to work together.

Annex C: Risk Assessment

When a person is reported missing, a risk assessment will be undertaken by Police Scotland and thereafter categorised as high, medium or low. This risk assessment will be carried out jointly with partners, when they are involved, to capture all information that will assist in determining the correct category of risk. Police officers have been issued with an aide memoire consisting of 21 questions to assist in determining the most appropriate risk category - the questions are produced below.

Missing Person Low Risk Status

Low Risk is deemed as any person that goes missing where there is low risk of harm to that person or others.

Missing Person Medium Risk Status

Medium Risk is a missing person that is likely to place themselves in danger or they are a threat to themselves or others.

Missing Person High Risk Status

High Risk is a missing person where the risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the Missing Person:

1. Is in danger through their own vulnerability; and / or

2. May have been the victim of a serious crime; and / or

3. The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the public is in danger.

The use of 'Absent' categorisation

There has been discussion about the use of the 'absent' categorisation in relation to instances where it is expected that the missing person - in practice, most usually a young person in care - goes missing but is expected to return unharmed after a short period. We are not proposing that this categorisation is adopted across Scotland at this time as it is important that any proposed changes are based on evidence, and we believe that further work is required into the effectiveness of this category.

Risk Assessment Determination


1. Is there any identified risk of suicide?

2. What are these vulnerabilities?

3. What are the effects of failure to take medication that is not available to them?

4. Does the missing person have medical or mental health conditions, physical illnesses or disabilities?

5. Can the person interact safely with others when finding themselves in unfamiliar circumstances?

6. Is there a dependency on drugs, alcohol, medication or other substances?

7. Do the current/previous weather conditions present additional risk? Consider all circumstances including age & clothing.


8. Are there family/relationship problems or recent history of family conflict and/or abuse?

9. Are they the victim or perpetrator of domestic violence?

10. Is there an on-going personal issue linked to racial, sexual or any cultural issues?

11. Were they involved in a violent and/or hate crime incident prior to disappearance?

12. Are there any employment or financial problems?

13. Is forced marriage or 'honour' based violence an issue?

14. Are they the victim of sexual exploitation, human trafficking or prostitution? If so, is going missing likely to place them at risk of considerable harm.

Past Behaviour

Behaviour that is out of character is often a strong indicator of risk.

15. Are the circumstances of going missing different from normal behaviour patterns?

16. Is there a reason for the person to go missing?

17. Are there any indications that preparations have been made for absence?

18. What was the person intending to do when last seen? Did they fail to complete their intentions?

19. Has the person disappeared previously and were they exposed to harm on such occasions?

20. Is the missing person a risk to others? And in what way?

21. Are there other unlisted factors which the officer or supervisor considers relevant in the assessment of risk?


Email: Stephen Coulter

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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