Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has today (Tuesday) published its report on a recent inspection of the accuracy of crime recording in Lincolnshire and has judged Lincolnshire Police as ‘inadequate’.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said: “It is of very great concern to me that Lincolnshire Police is failing to record almost one in five crimes reported to it.
“This inspection revealed unacceptable failings in the force’s recording practices. I am encouraged however by the fact that the force took steps immediately to address our concerns. This included adopting a more rigorous auditing process, and simplifying the way in which crimes are recorded when reported from other agencies such as health and education.
“We estimate the force fails to record 9,400 reported crimes each year, including reports concerning vulnerable victims, victims of crimes of a sexual nature and of violence.
“Although safeguarding measures were in place for many of the victims of crimes, there was little evidence of investigations being undertaken where the crime had not made it on to the books. This is particularly true for cases of domestic abuse.”
This meant that some officers may have approached a situation without knowing a past history of violence in a household. It was believed that this was not down to any official instruction to suppress crime reporting.
Ms Billingham went on: “I am disappointed to find that almost a quarter of reported violent crimes are not properly recorded. This is of serious concern as it can prevent victims receiving the support they need and deserve, and prevent offenders being brought to justice.
“The importance of correctly recording crime cannot be overlooked, or simply passed off as a bureaucratic measure. If a force does not correctly record crime it cannot properly understand the demand on its services, nor provide support to those who need it most.
“We have made a number of recommendations to help the force improve.
“Lincolnshire Police has changed processes to record crimes disclosed by victims within 24 hours. The introduction of increased scrutiny around crime-recording decisions and improvements to training for specialist staff are another positive step, but there is more work to do.
“I am confident that under the strong leadership of the chief and deputy chief constable, the force’s comprehensive action plan will lead to real improvements.”
The inspectors may return to Lincolnshire Police in 2019 to assess how effectively it has responded to the recommendations.
Police chiefs in Lincolnshire have vowed to resolve issues surrounding crime recording in the wake of the inspectors’ concerns.
Deputy Chief Constable Craig Naylor insisted that errors in the force systems did not affect the service to victims or the pursuit of offenders.
DCC Naylor said the report could give the impression that some crime is going unreported and unnoticed by the force but that, in fact, it was not recorded in the correct manner.
“We are deeply disappointed by this report and absolutely committed to ensuring we resolve the problem quickly and effectively,” said DCC Naylor.
“We have made mistakes and we will not shirk from accepting and correcting them. We recognised last year that we needed to improve our crime recording processes and have put measures in place since this inspection. I am determined to ensure that our systems and processes match the high standards our force delivers to victims.
“Our focus and commitment is to ensure victims are at the centre of all that we do and I am confident that, despite issues in how we have recorded some crimes, that service has not slipped from the high standards we set ourselves.”
He again insisted: “There are no ‘missed’ victims or offenders - what we have missed is the correct procedure for recording them.”
Many of the cases referred to by inspectors relate, said the force, to on-going enquires where a victim or a witness has reported historical incidents.
For instance an officer interviewing the victim of a domestic abuse may report similar incidents stretching back years. In such cases the force were recording the incidents in a way that did not meet Home Office Counting Rules.
DCC Naylor said: “Since my appointment in this role I’ve made improving our crime recording and investigative standards a priority, which is noted in this report. It also notes that had we known about the extent of this we would have taken more urgent steps to improve standards and we have invested in better understanding these issues since October last year.
“The figures analysed by the inspectors related to those recorded between June and November last year and we had already started work on improving our processes last summer.
“The current demands on the force are considerable and we continue to attempt to maximise the use of our people and resources to keep the people of Lincolnshire safe.”
Previous HMICFRS reports have assessed the force as being ‘Good’ when looking at how it keeps people safe and reduces crime.
DCC Naylor added: “The report highlights areas where we have excelled – making progress in placing the victim at the forefront of our crime-recording decisions; and we welcome the opportunity to learn and will do all we can to ensure improvements are made as quickly as possible.”
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones today expressed dismay at the inspectors’ report.
He says he has has taken swift and decisive action to set up an independent panel to oversee and support the force’s work to improve its crime recording procedures.
It will receive regular updates on progress made in meeting the force’s action plan in relation to the inspector’s recommendations and carry out regular spot checks of paperwork.
“At first sight the findings in this report are quite shocking and undoubtedly the force has work to do to reassure me as the public representative that they are getting this right. Both the Deputy and Chief Constable have my support as they tackle this and I don’t believe the report adequately reflects the everyday effort of the officers and staff across the county who strive to keep us all safe,” said Mr Jones.
“I have written to the Chief Constable to raise my concerns, ask for an action plan on how the force intends to put this right and make clear my intention to support their efforts with the new independent panel to ensure public confidence and transparency.
“I have been made aware that the force were already delivering changes in this area when the inspectors visited and other forces have found similar challenges that appear to be at odds with the Crime Survey of England and Wales. However, my role is to hold the Chief to account and ensure the public can have confidence in the way policing is delivered and crime recorded and I intend to do just that.”