A fifth of crimes — amounting to tens of thousands of offences — may be going unrecorded by police, a damning report by the force’s watchdog has found.
An inspection of 13 forces by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that out of a sample of 3,102 incidents, 2,551 crimes should have been recorded but 523 were not, including sexual offences, violent crimes, robbery and burglary.
Fourteen rapes were among the offences not recorded, including an allegation made by a 13-year-old autistic boy which was written off as “sexual experimentation.”
Another rape was not recorded due to “workload pressure” as recording the crime would “entail too much work,” HMIC found.
The police watchdog also found some offenders have been issued with out-of-court disposals such as cautions when in fact they should have been prosecuted.
Inspectors said: “In the light of what we have so far found, which could conceptually be contradicted by later results, it is difficult to conclude that none of these failures was the result of discreditable or unethical behaviour. The failure rate is too high.”
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive at charity Victim Support, 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.”
Police forces inspected by the HMIC so far are Cheshire, City of London, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Gwent, Hertfordshire, the Metropolitan Police, Norfolk, North Wales, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.