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“Institutionalise presumption that victim is to be believed”

2013 Police Federation Conference, Bournemouth, Dorset, Jason Bye, 15/05/2013The fact one in five crimes in England and Wales is not recorded properly by the police has been branded “inexcusable” by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

HMIC said the national average of under-recording of crime is 19 per cent, which amounts to over 800,000 crimes each year. Tom Winsor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary (pictured), said: “The police should immediately institutionalise the presumption that the victim is to be believed.”

He added: “The first duty of the police is to protect the public and reduce crime. A national crime-recording rate of 81 per cent is inexcusably poor. Failure properly to record crime is indefensible. This is not about numbers and dry statistics; it’s about victims and the protection of the public.

“The position in the case of rape and other sexual offences is a matter of especially serious concern. The national rate of under-recording of sexual offences (including rapes) as crimes was 26 per cent, and the national rate of incorrect decisions to no-crime rapes was 20 per cent.

“These are wholly unacceptable failings. Some forces have exemplary records in this respect, and some others are very bad. It is particularly important that in cases as serious as rape, these shortcomings are put right as a matter of the greatest urgency. In some forces, action is already being taken in this respect.”

Mr Winsor – on saying that victims should be believed – added: “If evidence later comes to light which shows that no crime occurred, then the record should be corrected; that is how the system is supposed to work.”

The HMIC report Crime Recording: Making the Victim Count, was the most extensive inspection and analysis of crime-recording ever carried out, which examined over 8,000 reports of crime to the police.

HMIC emphasised that the inspection was into the integrity of police-recorded crime data; it was not an inspection or inquiry into the integrity of the police.

The inspection found that even when crime was correctly recorded, many were removed or cancelled from the system as ‘no-crimes’. One in five of the 3,246 reviewed decisions to cancel a crime record was incorrect. This included over 200 rapes and more than 250 crimes of violence against the person.

The police should inform victims of these decisions, but in over 1,000 of the 3,246 decisions HMIC reviewed, there was no record of the victim having been told. This means, HMIC said, that victims may be under the impression that their crimes are being investigated when they are not.

A survey of over 17,000 police officers and staff revealed 39 per cent of 8,600 who said they had responsibility for making crime-recording decisions reported that performance and other pressures were distorting those decisions, and when presented with that picture, a number of forces admitted it. However, the inspection also found that forces are making considerable efforts to change the culture in which such practices were permitted in the past.

HMIC has recommended that the College of Policing should establish standard training to be provided by each force which ensures that all officers and staff who are likely to record crimes or have supervision of crime-recording have a sound understanding of the relevant principles to be applied, and are periodically tested in that respect.

Date posted: November 19, 2014

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