Domestic abuse victims left without support because of police crime recording failures, inspections find

Police have have been ordered to improve the way they record crime after an inspection found domestic abuse survivors and other victims were not being given support.

HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMICFRS) found that almost one in five violent crimes reported to Cleveland Police “never make it onto the books” amid a nationwide rise in stabbings.

The assessment was one of three published in the latest batch of nationwide inspections, which have recently exposed that other forces including the Metropolitan Police are failing to properly record tens of thousands of offences.

Cleveland Police was ranked “inadequate” after a probe found that more than 3,100 violent crimes are not being recorded every year and domestic violence abuse victims were being put at risk.

“When a crime isn’t recorded properly, victims might not receive the support services they need and, in some cases, an investigation may not begin,” Inspector Matt Parr said.

“In Cleveland Police, we found that only around a quarter of domestic abuse victims received adequate safeguarding when a crime was not logged. This leaves them exposed to an unacceptable level of risk and, potentially, harm.”

But he concluded that the force “has the right team in place to respond to our recommendations and make changes for the better”. 

Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Constable Simon Nickless said: “Whilst all calls to our control room are recorded and assessed, we recognise that we need to improve. “Since this inspection in 2017 we have already implemented changes and will continue to do so to ensure we provide the best possible service.”

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South Yorkshire Police’s crime recording was graded as “requires improvement” by HMICFRS but inspectors found a “high level of accuracy in the recording of sexual offences” in the wake of the Rotherham grooming scandal.

“However, South Yorkshire Police still fails to record more than 17,000 crimes each year,” Mr Parr said. We saw evidence that officers and staff simply did not understand the Home Office’s crime recording rules, particularly in cases involving domestic abuse and vulnerable victims.  

“Early support can be crucial for victims of crime, and these delays are preventing victims accessing the support they need.”

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber said South Yorkshire Police had made “significant progress” since 2014, and in particular highlighted a victim-focused approach to crime recording. 

“We do recognise there is further work to do to eliminate some identified administrative failings,” he added. 

“In those highlighted within the report, such as the sexual offence crimes, the majority of these are where a second crime has occurred, but not recorded.  Where vulnerable victim crimes were not recorded, safeguarding was still undertaken in all appropriate cases.

“South Yorkshire Police has made a commitment to a victim-focused service and we take these recommendations seriously.”

Bedfordshire Police’s crime recording was also found to be requiring improvement, although 90 per cent of all reports were recorded.

“There is more work to do,” Mr Parr said. “Violent crime is still under-recorded, with only 86 per cent of reported violent crimes making it onto the books.  

“We saw evidence that officers and staff simply did not understand the Home Office’s crime recording rules, particularly in cases involving domestic abuse and vulnerable victims. Our case file audit identified 32 crimes involving vulnerable victims, but just over half were not recorded by the force.”

Deputy Chief Constable Garry Forsyth said the force was in the top six forces of the 26 inspected so far, adding: “We have put robust measures in place to improve this even further. 

“While we may have missed recording in some instances due to procedural errors, there was never an occasion where someone hadn’t been appropriately safeguarded. Work is already ongoing in force and a plan is in place to address those procedural issues and we are confident that this will lead to further improvements in our recording rate.”

The inspections were published days after research published exclusively by The Independent found that victims are losing confidence in the criminal justice system as police “routinely” fall short of standard codes of practice.

Fifty-five per cent of those surveyed said the system failed to meet their needs, while only a quarter felt they were properly supported after reporting incidents to the police, a survey by Victim Support found.

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