Published on 19 Nov 2013 Sections

Rape victims ‘convinced to drop allegations’, officer says

Rape victims are being convinced not to pursue their allegations by the police in order to improve crime statistics, a serving officer claims.

The allegation is one of a string related to manipulation of crime figures included in written evidence to MPs by serving and former Metropolitan police officers.

James Patrick, who said he has analysed police data, told MPs that he estimated Metropolitan Police figures could under-represent the number of rape cases by nearly a quarter. He claimed some reports are being wrongly classified, while others are simply not being pursued and removed from police records.

On a simple first glance I saw that around 25 per cent of reported rapes were being classified as ‘no crime’ or ‘crime related incident’. James Patrick

And, in their evidence to a Commons select committee, two former senior Met police officers added their concerns that doctoring the statistics was restricted neither to the Metropolitan police, nor to sexual offences.

‘Very concerned’

James Patrick wrote that officers investigating sexual offence allegations – including rape – were known to engage in “strategic investigation to justify” removing reports from the records.

“This was expressed as officers visiting victims with the result of ‘Oh I see what you mean, perhaps I haven’t been raped’,” he claimed.

And he said that in June 2013 he was “asked to offer some advice to a civilian analyst on the recording of sexual offences, after they had discovered one crime report covering over 20 victims and clearly separate offences”.

Crime figures have been ‘massaged’ over many years, much in the way that unemployment figures were counted in different ways throughout the 1980s. David Gilbertson

Rape Crisis England & Wales said it was “very concerned” by the allegations.

A spokesperson said: “We [have] made it clear that levels of ‘no criming’ (recording that no crime has been committed following a report to police) urgently needed to be addressed and are extremely disappointed if little or no improvement has been made.

“We are aware how incredibly difficult it can be to make a report to the police, and how disheartening it can be if those reports are met with disbelief or discouragement.”

In a number of cases this has allowed criminals free rein to commit serious crimes, including murder. Dr Rodger Patrick

The spokesperson said that “only 15 per cent of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year currently even report to the police”. The spokesperson called on police to “improve the consistency and quality of the recording and handling of sexual offences”.

‘Downright malpractice’

In his evidence to the committee, former Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner David Gilbertson claimed that across the country’s forces, “crime figures have been ‘massaged’ over many years, much in the way that unemployment figures were counted in different ways throughout the 1980s”.

He added: “A whole raft of tactics has been employed to ensure that police forces look good, many of which teeter on the edge of downright malpractice.” And he accused police forces of regularly recording “instances of criminal damage as accidental damage”, thereby removing the incidents from the crime figures altogether.

Retired Met police detective chief inspector Dr Rodger Patrick wrote that police forces’ failure to “record crimes prevents offences being investigated and offenders brought to justice. In a number of cases this has allowed criminals free rein to commit serious crimes, including murder”.

The claims of all three were made in written evidence to the public administration select committee, which is carrying out an inquiry into crime statistics.

‘Eventually retracted’

In his statement, James Patrick, who faces disciplinary hearings, also claimed that the system used to classify rape allegations “had been abused to halve the number of offences” showing in statistics.

The MPS is committed to recording all allegations of sexual abuse. Metropolitan police spokesperson

He added: “In the course of clarifying this I came across the national ‘no crime’ statistics, and subsequently an analytical tool in the Met, known as a ‘rape logic tree’. This shows the percentage of attrition at different stages of investigation.

“On a simple first glance I saw that around 25 per cent of reported rapes were being classified as ‘no crime’ or ‘crime related incident’… (the latter being an unconfirmed, or third party report).

“Having checked the national statistics I was keenly aware that for all offences the ‘no crime’ rate was around 2.5 per cent, but for sexual offences was 12 per cent.”

He claimed that 80 per cent of a small sample of discontinued investigations he selected to further analyse were “objectively highlighted as of concern”. He said they formed a pattern of officers recording no crime as having been committed, and victims having “eventually retracted allegations, in particular where alcohol or other issues were present factors”. Another issue he identified was the mental health of the victim.

He also claimed another sample suggested around 70 per cent of reports recorded as crime-related incidents should have been noted as crimes in their own right, further decreasing the number of rapes recorded.

‘Renewed confidence’

A Metropolitan police spokesman said the force is “committed to ensuring crimes are accurately recorded and has put in place robust processes to ensure crimes are neither over nor under recorded”.

The spokesman added: “The MPS is committed to recording all allegations of sexual abuse. Following such reports a thorough investigation is conducted by trained officers. We actively encourage individuals who have been subjected to these abhorrent crimes to come forward and report to police.

“As a consequence reported rape allegations have increased by 30 per cent indicating a renewed confidence in the response of police.”

Sapphire became a specialist crime command in 2009. The methods of evaluating performance has been subject to a review and in response the MPS no longer considers charges in the context of crimes reported.

“There is no longer an incentive or benefit to reduce the numbers of allegations recorded.”

An Association of Chief Police Officers spokesman did not provide comment.

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