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18 November 2014, 07:39
A report's criticised police forces across the country - including Hampshire and Dorset - for under-recording crimes.
An inspection of all 43 forces showed that 800,000 offences a year were not logged as crimes.
Over a quarter of sexual offences were not recorded, while the figure for crimes of violence against the person was even higher at a third.
The report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary posed the question: "To what extent can police-recorded crime information be trusted?"
The HMIC's Chief Inspector, Tom Winsor, said: "Failure to properly record crime is indefensible. This is not about numbers and dry statistics; it's about victims and the protection of the public. Victims of crime are being let down."
The HMIC report made 13 recommendations, including a nine-month deadline for the College of Policing to establish a training scheme for those responsible for crime recording in each force.
Hampshire Constabulary has revealed major changes to how it is recording crime.
Some crimes, which previously would have been investigated first and then recorded as crimes, are now being recorded immediately on contact from a victim or on speaking to a member of the public.
The change is part of the Constabulary's growing efforts to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system. The measures address concerns raised by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary in a national report about how forces across England and Wales are recording crime.
A separate Hampshire-specific report, which looks at force activity between 1 November 2012 and 31 October 2013, states that the force has a "strong victim focus" and that "there is no evidence of institutionalised performance pressure not to record crime correctly". Investigation standards are not called into question.
Weaknesses were highlighted in Hampshire Constabulary's previous "investigate to record" approach, where officers speak to victims and investigate before recording and categorising crime in databases. Less crime has been recorded than would have been if national standards had been applied in all cases.
- Occasions when crimes are not recorded into databases when victims state that they do not want to pursue criminal action with regard to the offence
- Occasions where multiple crimes, reported as part of the same incident, are only recorded once
- Occasions where crimes with multiple victims are only recorded once rather than a separate crime record filed for each victim
D/Supt Rachel Farrell commented:
"For almost a year we have been working with our staff and officers to change the process of how we record crime. This has been necessary as we cut back office staff in order to keep as many officers as possible on the frontline.
"The HMIC audit has been timely. It comes part way through our change and highlights specific areas where we need to improve. We welcome the positive comments about our strong victim focus. It is also reassuring that our plans are judged to be comprehensive, and that there is no evidence in Hampshire Constabulary of institutionalised performance pressure not to record crime correctly.
"We are already seeing improvement. We are recording more crime on our systems every year and if that means that public trust and confidence in policing also goes up then that can only be positive".
Simon Hayes, Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire comments on the HMIC report on Crime Data Integrity:
"I am concerned that Hampshire Constabulary has been found to be under-recording crime - especially for rape cases.
"It is critical that all victims receive an appropriate and consistent level of service from the police wherever a crime occurs. Failure to properly record crime can mean that people do not receive appropriate support from the Constabulary and other support agencies.
"Crime recording is a complex and controversial subject but this report highlights the fact that there has been a culture of 'investigate then record' by the Constabulary rather than 'record then investigate' as required by national guidance. As Police and Crime Commissioner, I will be holding the Chief Constable to account to ensure that any failings in compliance are rectified by the Constabulary as a matter of priority.
"Furthermore, today I am challenging the Government and HMIC to ensure that any future investigations and recommendations help to deliver a more effective service and build public confidence in the police. So, I'm looking to Government not to reduce funding to Hampshire Constabulary any further."
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said:
"I welcome the report from her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), which has recently conducted an inspection into the way the 43 police forces in England and Wales record crime data.
"Since being elected as Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, I have focused on raising crime recording standards and continue to hold the Force to account for its performance in this area. I conduct a monthly strategic performance group and as a result various reports have been challenged and improvement plans commissioned."
"I am pleased to see areas where the Force has been commended. HMIC recognises the excellent work of the Dorset Victims Bureau and the effective approach to crime recording through the centralised crime recording unit. As the report finds, on inspection of this unit all calls were recorded correctly. I welcome this."
"However, I also recognise that there are some important areas in the report which are not so positive. I am concerned by some inconsistencies with regard to overall crime recording. I will be seeking assurances from Dorset Police to tackle these issues. I welcome HMIC recommendations to immediately put in place audit arrangements, with particular attention being directed to those involving vulnerable adults and children, along with establishing training in crime recording to all police officers and staff within six months."
"I have written to the Chief Constable asking for an urgent response to some of the issues raised in this report and for an assurance that the immediate recommendations will be implemented as soon as practicable"
"My office will continue to work with the force to provide support and challenge to ensure that we are achieving our overall objective to keep the people of Dorset safe and to reduce crime."