An inspection of Northamptonshire Police’s crime data integrity has found the force is failing to accurately record offences of rape, robbery and violence and demonstrating a “lack of regard” for victims.
A damning report published today by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has recommended a number of urgent changes be made to the “inaccuracy” of the force’s decisions to designate an offence as “no crime”.
The criticisms of Northamptonshire Police include:
- Information about victim’s lifestyle being “frequently” used to undermine the credibility of a crime
-Officers using “extremely concerning” language to support a “no-crime decision” including describing a rape victim as someone who “could be a compulsive liar”
-Chief police officers providing “confused” messages that have resulted in officers not recording crimes when they should have done
-A ‘lack of regard’ for victims and a failure to keep them updated about the progress of their case
-A shortage of staff in the force control room leading to officers inaccurately recording crimes on automatic electronic forms
- Robbery crimes being downgraded to ‘theft from person’ to achieve a “swifter” recording of the crime
The report, which covers the period of November 1, 2012 to October 31, 2013, states that HMIC reviewed 90 recorded crimes of rape, violence and robbery that Northamptonshire Police had categorised as “no-crime” and found only 55 of these decisions were correct.
HMIC found that information about a victim or their lifestyle was “frequently” used to undermine the credibility of the report of a crime.
The report states: “In some cases the version of events described by the offender was used to contradict the victim’s account and justify a no-crime decision.
“Without additional verifiable information this demonstrates a lack of regard for the victim.”
After a review of rape cases, the explanations used to support a decision for a no-crime decision contained “extremely concerning” comments and language such as a victim being described as someone who “could be a compulsive liar”.
HMIC said this was a matter of “serious concern” and has instructed Northamptonshire Police to immediately adopt a new approach to recording crimes, especially those of rape.
Inspectors viewed 106 incident records of crime reported by members of the public to the force control room and found 82 crimes should have been recorded.
However, Northamptonshire Police only recorded 65, of which four were wrongly classified and five were recorded outside the 72-hour limit allowed under Home Office rules.
HMIC found that on occasions when an officer attended an incident there was often a lack of detail entered into the log as to why a crime had not been recorded.
Chief officers in Northamptonshire Police were criticised by HMIC for providing “confused” messages to officers in recent years about how crimes should be recorded.
The report states that in January 2013 officers and staff were instructed to follow an “investigate-to-record” policy, which advised them that crimes were being recorded that, “with a little investigation”, should not be recorded as a crime.
But in April this year, the deputy chief constable the DCC sent out a number of messages underlining the importance of “correct practice” when recording crime, using the force’s intranet and his blog, which the report states “generated a large amount of confusion amongst frontline officers and managers.”
The report states: “We found that almost universally the impact of this comment (in January 2013) was that officers thought they were being encouraged or given discretion to record crime only once an investigation confirmed that a crime had been committed.
“This has had the effect of causing many officers not to record crimes when they should have done so.”
HMIC concluded that the “central focus” of the force was on achieving reductions in crime rather than looking at the harm to victims and communities, which inaccurate recording could bring.
Northamptonshire Police was also criticised for its failure to keep victims of crime regularly updated about the progress of their case.
The report sates: “Managers commented to us that officers do not understand the need to keep victims regularly updated. They also said that there is little or no contact with victims when out-of-court methods are being considered to deal with a crime.
“These are widely regarded as a quick way of removing crimes from officer workloads.”
HMIC also found that officers were classifying crimes inaccurately because there was a “shortage of staff” in the control room to answer their calls.
The report states officers were using an electronic form to get the crimes recorded automatically, however this should only be used to record less serious crimes.
Inspectors said they were told robbery crimes being recorded by officers using this system were being downgraded to “theft from person” to achieve a “swifter” recording of the details.
HMIC has detailed a number of recommendations that Northamptonshire Police must comply with within the next six months.
The force has been told to immediately remove all references to the ‘investigate to record’ policy and reinforce the “unequivocal message” that ethical crime reporting is required irrespective of the effect it might have on force performance.
Northamptonshire Police should also immediately take “effective” action to address the inaccuracy of some of its “no-crime” decisions and ensure that report recorded separately on other force systems, such as public protection teams, are recorded as crimes.
Within in three months, the force must ensure it has sufficient capability to enable efficient crime recording and review its assessment of the risks associated with crime data integrity.
The force should also amended its guidance on when rape should be recorded as a crime and introduce a structured, regular audit plan.
Within six months, the force should establish a new training system in crime recording for all police officers and staff responsible for making crime recording decisions.