Police are failing to officially record one in five of the crimes reported to them, a damning report has revealed.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.”
In a study of 316 rape reports, the inspectors discovered that 37 rapes were not recorded as crimes.
A review of other police statistics showed that 220 rapes were initially recorded, but then wrongly cancelled as “no-crimes” after further investigation. More than 250 violence allegations were similarly downgraded.
Mr Winsor said: “It is particularly important that in cases as serious as rape, these shortcomings are put right as a matter of the greatest urgency. The police should immediately institutionalise the presumption that the victim is to be believed.
“Offenders who should be being pursued by the police for these crimes are not being brought to justice, and their victims are denied services to which they are entitled.”
Mr Winsor said he found no one manipulating figures dishonestly, but there was evidence from some forces that “undue performance pressure” had led to the under-recording of some crimes in the past.
A witness who claimed his colleagues had manipulated statistics failed to provide evidence to support his claims, he added.
The report analysed 1,159 decisions where inspectors felt police were wrong to record no crime. It found half the problems were caused by officers who were poorly supervised, and a fifth by staff who had poor knowledge of the accepted recording system.
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.
Mr Winsor said some of the 43 forces in England and Wales were recording crime well, and others had improved since being criticised in an interim report in May.
He said the best forces identified in the report were Staffordshire, South Wales, West Midlands and Lincolnshire. The worst were West Yorkshire, Northumbria, Avon and Somerset and Dyfed Powys.