THOUSANDS of crimes – including sexual offences and child abuse – may not have been properly investigated by Cheshire Police.
A damning report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) estimates that more than 11,600 crimes reported every year to the county force are not recorded.
This means the alleged offences are unlikely to be investigated and victims are less likely to receive proper support.
Government inspectors examined crime reports between June 1 and November 30 last year and found the constabulary failed to accurately record around 16 per cent.
“This means that on too many occasions the constabulary is failing victims of crime,” their report states.
Following the report of a crime, officers are meant to record the incident if they are “satisfied it is more likely than not that a crime has been committed”.
Reports can come from a range of sources from a 999 call to a referral from social services or the NHS.
In Cheshire, it emerged that certain procedures and training were inadequate, although the report acknowledged that progress had been made since the last inspection in 2014.
Overall, the force’s crime recording was judged to be 'inadequate'.
HMIC estimates that more than 3,800 violent crimes and 280 sexual offences are not properly recorded every year.
A total of 109 out of 138 audited reports of rape were found to be accurately recorded. However, the report states that support and safeguarding were provided in all but two cases and investigations were carried out in all but three.
HMIC also examined 50 vulnerable victim records and found that 33 should have been recorded – but only 12 had been.
Furthermore, of 20 referrals from multi-agency teams (social workers, health professionals), investigators concluded that 11 crimes should have been recorded, of which just five had been.
The missing ‘vulnerable victim’ crimes included three counts of rape, child neglect, a number of assaults and an allegation of inciting a child to perform a sex act.
Of the 1,580 audited crime reports, 340 were related to domestic abuse. Of these, just 260 had been recorded “with little rationale to explain why”.
In a statement, HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham said: “Although we found some improvements have been made to the way Cheshire Constabulary records crime, more needs to be done. It is of great concern that we found unacceptable practices in important areas and many reports of crime not recorded.
“Overall we estimate that the constabulary fails to record over 11,600 crimes. These are not just offences such as burglary or criminal damage: we found that the constabulary was under recording serious crimes such as violence and sexual offences.
“Despite these areas for concern, we were pleased to find that the majority of officers and staff put the victim’s needs at the forefront of crime recording decisions. The constabulary needs to close the gaps within its process so that all victims of crime get the service and support they deserve
“We’ve made recommendations to the constabulary that we expect to see urgently addressed. HMIC will re-visit Cheshire Constabulary in early 2018 to ensure progress has been made.”
CHESHIRE Police chiefs have expressed “disappointment” after the force was rated ‘inadequate’ at accurately recording crime.
They said every case highlighted in the HMIC report had been “thoroughly reviewed” and the constabulary had “acted quickly to ensure the appropriate support and safeguarding measures were in place for victims”.
They also stressed progress had been made in implementing recommendations since the last inspection in 2014, which was recognised in the report.
This includes “work undertaken to improve the knowledge and understanding of staff around crime recording”.
During 2015 and 2016 the constabulary invested more than £1m in an additional 45 staff at a new central facility to improve crime recording standards.
This is despite the tough financial situation facing Cheshire and other police forces nationwide.
Deputy chief constable Janette McCormick said: “We accept the findings in the report. Progress has been made but we recognise we have more to do.
“We’ve already made changes in our crime-recording approach.
“The safeguarding of victims is always at the heart of Cheshire’s crime recording process, and considered throughout any subsequent investigation.
“All cases HMIC inspectors highlighted have been fully reviewed to ensure appropriate support has been put in place.
“While we agree that there have been some crime recording errors, this does not mean we are failing victims, nor does the report call into question the integrity of officers and staff.
“The report recognises our good leadership in respect of crime recording and inroads have been made already in addressing the recommendations in the report.
“The constabulary will continue to look at how we do things to ensure the public receive the best possible service.
“But we do have some hard choices to make in this financial climate to fully remedy all of the recommendations.
“The force has been previously praised as a ‘caring’ organisation by HMIC. We are, and always will be, fundamentally victim focused, and we will ensure that the public are confident we are providing the best service possible to victims of crime.”
See full story in the Chester Leader