Police – including those across Greater Manchester – have been slammed for their failure to accurately report crime, in a government watchdog report.
The HMIC report: Crime recording: A matter of fact found that as many as 20% of crimes go unrecorded – including some serious sexual assaults such as rape.
The report revealed that only 265 out of 388 incidents the HMIC investigated in Greater Manchester in 2013 were recorded as crimes – yet all were deemed crimes by HMIC.
This means 31% of crimes were improperly recorded by Greater Manchester Police in 2013, denying victims justice and allowing offenders to escape detection.
Out of a total of 91 no-crime decisions HMIC reviewed (a no-crime means a crime was reported yet no evidence was found when later investigated), only 65 were correct to be logged as such.
MM wanted to discuss these figures with Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd but he was unable to find a 15 minute slot in his diary during the eight weeks we requested the interview.
Instead, MM discuss the stats with Assistant CEO of Victim Support Adam Pemberton and Chair of the Manchester Green Party Deyika Nzeribe.
Also the views of Home Secretary Theresa May MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP and Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor are represented.
Victim Support’s Mr Pemberton said: “This is about much more than inaccurate statistics or poor number-crunching – each mistake represents a victim losing their chance to get justice and to access support services.
“It is completely unacceptable that victims of any crimes – let alone serious sexual offences such as rape – should have their complaints go unrecorded or downgraded because of police incompetence or even laziness.”
There seems no doubt that crime is in fact falling, as the CSEW shows, but in the last decade police recorded crime shows that crime is falling by far more than the data shown in the CSEW.
The HMIC report implies that police recorded crime is falling so much faster than the CSEW is due to poor practice and recording.
In a statement on the report, Home Secretary Theresa May MP 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.”
One area highlighted by the report is the inappropriate use of community resolutions which is a way of dealing with an offender which is proportionate to lower-level crime.
Inspectors found sampled 308 community resolutions and found that in 57 cases the offender’s previous criminal history should have precluded the use of the disposal.
Responding to the report Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP said: “Though only an interim report, the Inspectorate’s findings are extremely serious.
“HMIC’s initial research suggests 20% of crimes ‘may be going unrecorded.’ And they expose clear abuse of so-called Community Resolutions being handed out for inappropriate crimes and without the say of victims.
“Labour has long called for the Government to step in and stop Community Resolutions being used for serious crimes. This report makes it clear the Government should act now.”
Police Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd is tasked with setting policing priorities in the area but to do so this needs accurate police data – as PCC, Mr Lloyd has a duty to hold GMP to account and to demand better practices.
This is a view backed up by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor who described the consequences of police officers not properly recording crimes are ‘serious’.
He stated that under-recording of crime may mean victims and the community are failed and that police chiefs will lack the necessary information to make effective policing decisions.
Worryingly, it has been known for some time that police have been under recording crime but there has been little real action by police chiefs to address the problem.
Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme in 2012, Met officer James Patrick said he was forced to resign from the force after raising concerns similar to those in the report.
“I started discussing this on a blog way back in 2012 and I feel like telling the truth has resulted in a negative impact.”
He added: “Victims weren’t receiving the right service.”
ACPO have also acknowledged they were already aware of the problems but say they are already working to address the weakness.
ACPO’s National Police Lead for Crime Statistics, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said: “There’s more to do to raise standards and get consistency across the country but it’s important to recognise that in many of the cases identified by HMIC as failing to comply with the Home Office Counting Rules there’s clear evidence that the public have still received an appropriate and responsive service.
“While the report identifies that the Home Office Counting Rules are not especially complicated, they can be interpreted by forces in different ways. We are working hard to rectify this through training and accreditation of force crime registrars led by the College of Policing.
“The vast majority of officers join the police motivated by a desire to protect the public; nobody joins the police service with the intention of recording crime inaccurately. However, it is clear that the service has not always met the standards of data quality that the public expects.
“The service is already actively addressing many of the weaknesses identified by the report: we’re reviewing the way we record sexual offences across the country and we’re working with the College to implement the Code of Ethics, which highlights the need for ethical recording. ACPO have already recognised issues with the out of court disposal framework and are currently working with government and other partners, including HMIC, on a review of the system.
“We are also working with the Home Office, HMIC, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee (CSAC) to regain the national statistics designation and ensure that the public have confidence in the police.”
Chair of the Manchester Green Party Deyika Nzeribe, who has long called for a re-think over the creation of Police Crime Commissioners, said: This is not just a political issue. When an organisation, a system, like GMP does not function well, people lose their lives.
“It doesn’t help that the Office for National Statistics has “gold-standard “national statistics” status has been withdrawn from Police Recorded Crime figures following repeated allegations that some of the quarterly published figures have been subject to “a degree of fiddling”.
“When GMPCC Tony Lloyd commented on the report and on how crime was recorded he said ‘There has to be common sense. The paradox about the HMIC report is that recorded crime will go up.’
“One would think that the ‘common sense’ approach would be to record crime as accurately as possible so you then know how to marshal your resources and concentrate them where they are needed in Greater Manchester.
“How can you properly serve your communities WITHOUT accurate information? It’s hard to have confidence in the GMPCC with comments like that.”
Commenting on the role the Police and Crime Commissioner has played in developing public confidence and trust in the police, Colette Williams of BARAC and Respect Party said: “During the campaign for Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd promised that he would be an advocate for the people, that he would work tirelessly to improve the relationship and instil trust and confidence between the community and the Police.
“However since he has been in office there have been a number of issues which have been brought to his attention regarding police conduct and he has quite simply refused to engage in any real open discussions on these issues.
“It seems that his only priority is to raise funds for his office and not to fulfil the pledge of building trust and confidence between the community and the Police.”
What must be remembered is that it is victims and the community that suffer most from under-recording of crime, as emphasised by Victim Support’s Mr Pemberton: “We know from speaking to tens of thousands of victims of crime every year how important it is victims get the help they need and that they trust the police to carry out a thorough investigation.
“Most victims want more than anything for their offender not to commit another crime, but if the police can’t reliably recognise and record when and where a crime has been committed their efforts to cut crime may well be misdirected.”
Image courtesy of Raul Leiberwirth, with thanks.