CHESHIRE Chief Constable Peter Fahy warned about the dangers of creating scapegoats and making public policy on the back of individual cases, in the wake of the Bichard Report.
He was speaking to members of the Police Authority about the report by Sir Michael Bichard which made recommendations relevant to the police service as a whole, including improving the flow of information and intelligence.
The Bichard Inquiry was set up by the Home Secretary to look into child protection procedures in Humberside Police and Cambridgeshire Constabulary following the conviction of Ian Huntley for the murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells.
Following the publication of the report and criticism of both forces, the Chief Constable of Cambridge-shire resigned. However the chief constable of Humberside, David Westwood, has refused to resign despite Home Secretary David Blunkett's call for his suspension.
Mr Fahy said: 'We have to remember that stranger attacks on children are extremely rare and I think it's dangerous to make public policy on the back of individual cases.
'I think it's dangerous if people are going to be made scapegoats if decisions about information flying around organisations are going to be made on the basis on one case.'
He pointed out there was no public enquiry for Johnny Delaney, the 15-year-old who was kicked to death by two other teenagers in Ellesmere Port in May last year. 'Some would say that was more worrying because 14-year-olds were involved,' Mr Fahy added.
He told Police Authority members: 'I can reassure you our procedures are more robust than the procedures described in the report for Humberside and Cambridge-shire. We do keep material for longer - 10 years initially - than was the case in Humberside. We do have a very thorough vetting unit and do devote a number of staff to that department.'
But he added: 'If you let people into your home you have to rely on your common sense. You can't rely on vetting - it's a hugely unsophisticated process. Trust your own instincts. Check them out, talk to people who know them. It depends on whether you happen to come to our notice, whether we identify you, whether you have changed your name.'
He continued: 'There's no question that Huntley was an extreme risk and should have been identified. But even then, if we identify someone who has a repeat pattern of offending, the fact that somebody has two or three unsubstantiated allegations about them does not help us go forward. I think that's something the Bichard Inquiry does not address.
'One has to remember as well that the reason the two girls came into contact with Huntley was not because he was a school caretaker but because he was living with a lady who happened to be a teaching assistant.
'I think the challenge for the force and other forces is in terms of the way we manage intelligence and risk assessment.'
Mr Fahy said Cheshire police gets 20 requests a week for vetting. He said whether that information was disclosed or not depended on 'broad criteria', but the officer responsible for deciding would 'err on the side of disclosure'.
Mr Fahy will present a report on the Bichard Inquiry and the implications for Cheshire police to the September meeting of the Police Authority.