A FIFTH of all crimes in England and Wales could be going unrecorded, a police watchdog has said.
An interim report by the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary, following inspections of 13 forces including Gwent, found serious concerns about how police record crimes.
HMIC said serious sexual offences were going unrecorded including, it discovered, 14 rapes.
HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, said: “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.
“Although this is an interim report, and we have identified common strengths, we are seriously concerned at the picture which is emerging – particularly about the significant under-recording of crime, and serious sexual offences not being recorded.”
Recorded crime is used as the basis for official crime statistics from the Home Office – evidence of so-called under-recording could mean such statistics underplay how much crime actually takes place.
Last year the Gwent PCC Ian Johnston threw doubt over Gwent crime statistics, saying police may not have recorded crime properly in a bid to lower figures. But earlier this month he seemed to drop his concerns when he said recently published statistics reflected actual crime.
HMIC estimated that if the findings for the first set of forces inspected are representative across all of them, 20 per cent of crime may be going unrecorded.
The inspection, which looked at how the Home Office Counting Rules and National Crime Recording Standard are applied, found there was weak or absent management of crime recording and a lack of a focus on the victim by the police when making crime-recording decisions.
It also found some offenders have been issued with out-of-court disposals when their offending history couldn’t justify it and when they should have been prosecuted.
But strengths identified included that when crime reports are recorded the classification of the offence is correct on almost every occasion.
In each force the HMIC looked at a sample of incidents to see if a crime should have been recorded and was. In Gwent it found within a sample of 60 crimes that should have been recorded, 52 were. A final HMIC report is due in October.
In response to the HMIC report, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said he welcomed the report into crime data integrity in respect of Gwent Police.
He added: "Although it shows there is still more to be done to raise standards and achieve greater national consistency, I am pleased that the Inspectors have found that nearly 9 out of every 10 crimes inspected were recorded in accordance with national rules and that we are above the national average in this regard.
Gwent PCC Ian Johnston, responding to the report said he believed the public in Gwent can have confidence in the direction that the Gwent force is taking.
He added: "The Chief Constable has provided strong leadership and made it clear to everyone in the force that ethical and accurate crime recording is essential if the public are to have confidence in the figures. It was important to me that this independent inspection by HMIC confirmed many of the findings of our own internal review conducted last year."