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20% of crimes may go unrecorded in UK – official report

Published time: May 03, 2014 13:37
Edited time: June 27, 2014 08:13
Reuters/Olivia Harris

Reuters/Olivia Harris

20 percent of crimes in England and Wales may not be recorded by police according to an investigation, with Home Secretary, Theresa May saying it uncovered “unacceptable failings.” Sexual offences and violent crimes were amongst those not recorded.

The report was conducted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). This is the most comprehensive survey ever carried out on 43 police forces in England and Wales. So far 13 have been reviewed, with the HMIC finding that out of the 3,102 cases, 523 had not been recorded, including 14 alleged rapes.

This could mean that one in five crimes in England and Wales are not being recorded. An unrecorded crime is defined as being one that is reported to the police, but is not subsequently recorded as an offence.

“We believe that it is weak or absent management, poor knowledge on the part of those making the crime recording decisions with the crime recording rules, weak or absent training or workload pressures,” said the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor. “But because the failure rate is as high as it is... it is impossible to rule out discreditable or unethical behavior,” he continued.

Police forces have complained about being under too much pressure, which has led to crimes not being recorded. However, Theresa May says, “HMIC's interim report exposes unacceptable failings by the police.” The Home Secretary added that, “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.”

The inspection started in February and will conclude in November. However, despite only inspecting 13 forces so far, the report has already covered around 60 percent of crimes in the country, due to the sizes of the Metropolitan and Great Manchester Police forces.

Tom Windsor says that it is imperative that law enforcement bodies across the country be more accurate as, “the consequences of under-recording of crime are serious, and may mean victims and the community are failed because crimes are not investigated; the levels of crime will be wrongly under-stated, and police chiefs will lack the information they need to make sound decisions on the deployment of their resources,” the Chief Inspector of Constabulary continued.

While the report praises police forces for their first contact with victims of crime, the inspection team said that police do not always believe the victims. This oversight of crime recording could be improved, along with officers’ use out-of-court disposals to deal with offenders, which means victims are not always informed.