1 May 2014

Police failing to record 20 per cent of crime – report

The police are failing to record more than 700,000 offences – including cases of rape and serious sexual offences – according to the first official inquiry into crime reporting.

An inspection of 13 forces found 14 rapes were among offences not recorded by officers, including an allegation made by a 13-year-old autistic boy which was written off as “sexual experimentation”.

Another rape was not recorded due to “workload pressure” as recording the crime would “entail too much work”, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has found.

The police watchdog also found some offenders have been issued with out-of-court disposals, such as cautions, when they should have been prosecuted.

‘Unethical behaviour’

Inspectors said they could not rule out “discreditable or unethical behaviour” on the part of officers for the failure rate. The Home Secretary Theresa May said the report exposed “unacceptable failings by the police” and warned that once HMIC concludes its work in October, official figures may show a spike in police recorded crime.

The police watchdog is conducting an inspection into the way all 43 forces in England and Wales record crime data. It said if its findings from the first 13 forces reflect the national picture, it could mean 20 per cent of crimes may be going unrecorded.

HM chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor said: “The consequences of under-recording of crime are serious, and may mean victims and the community are failed because crimes are not investigated, the levels of crime will be wrongly under-stated, and police chiefs will lack the information they need to make sound decisions on the deployment of their resources.”

‘Weak and absent management’

Mr Winsor said the report found “serious weaknesses” and it was impossible to rule out unethical behaviour by officers. He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We believe that it is weak or absent management, poor knowledge on the part of those making the crime recording decisions or the crime recording rules, weak or absent training and workload pressures.

“But because the failure rate is as high as it is – perhaps as high as 20 per cent, we’ll know in October – then it is impossible to rule out discreditable or unethical behaviour.”

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week showed police recorded 3.7 million offences in the year to December 2013 – but if HMIC is correct, the real figure could be as high as 4.4 million.

Out of a sample of 3,102 incidents, HMIC found 2,551 crimes should have been recorded but 523 were not, including sexual offences, crimes of violence, robbery and burglary.

Police forces inspected so far are Cheshire, City of London, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Gwent, Hertfordshire, the Metropolitan Police, Norfolk, North Wales, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: “It is quite possible, once HMIC has completed its work on recorded crime statistics and made recommendations on how the police need to improve, that we will see an increase in recorded crime.

“If that increase is driven by improved accuracy in the recording of crime or more victims reporting crime to the police, we should welcome it.

“Such an increase would not mean that crime itself is rising.”

The report comes after serious concerns were raised over the integrity of crime figures, sparked by claims made by former Metropolitan Police officer last year.

Mr Patrick, who has since resigned, told MPs that massaging crime figures to hit performance targets had become “an ingrained part of policing culture”.