MPs hear of attempts to massage crime figures to improve ‘performance’ figures: lives have been lost, says former officer.
Police are failing to investigate some of the most serious crimes, including rapes and sexual abuse of children, in an attempt to massage official statistics, a parliamentary committee was told.
MPs on the Commons public administration committee heard evidence from past and present officers who claimed the fiddling of crime figures was done to boost apparent performance.
Former West Midlands chief inspector Dr Rodger Patrick said the failure to investigate serious allegations properly had catastrophic consequences: “I highlighted this issue in relation to incidents involving domestic violence and child protection, child abuse, but the incidents weren’t recorded and investigated and subsequently this led to homicide.
“That is the extreme end of the risk that people are taking. It isn’t just about fudging the figures to keep everybody happy – there are really serious consequences of this behaviour.”
Peter Barron, a former detective chief superintendent in the Metropolitan police, told MPs that some crime victims are “harassed” by police into dropping allegations: “Many people are persuaded that their pocket hasn’t been picked. ‘Is it possible that you’ve lost it?’ … They have been rung back on so many occasions to try and persuade them that, in fact, they were mistaken and no violence was used, it merely just slipped from their bag.”
The former officer said that those who try to blow the whistle on the fiddling of crime figures are victimised: “By and large they are marginalised; if they apply for promotion they are not selected. They
are judged to be not a team player.”
The committee also heard from a serving Met constable who alleged parliament had been spoon-fed misleading crime figures for over a decade. PC James Patrick said figures from his own force on rape were being kept artificially down.
Patrick told MPs that his research showed 70% of rape allegations that were classed as not meriting investigation were wrongly dismissed. He said he had spoken to his force’s crime management unit, which ran statistical and recording policies.
Patrick told the committee: “A preference had developed to try to justify ‘no crime’ on the basis of mental health or similar issues of vulnerability or by saying that the victim has refused to disclose to them.”
Committee chair Bernard Jenkin asked: “This would finish up with trying to persuade a victim that they weren’t raped, for example?” Patrick responded: “Effectively, yes.”
PC Patrick had been placed on restricted duties by the Metropolitan police and ordered “not to have contact with the public, external agencies or stakeholders” after an internal investigation was launched after he used Twitter to claim government reforms and cuts to the police service could jeopardise public safety.
Police massaging of figures on rape involved a practice whereby officers classed allegations as crime-related incidents rather than crimes , meaning the cases were not investigated properly.
In 2009 the Guardian revealed up to six boroughs in the Met had used the technique, in breach of the force’s policy that all rape complaints should be treated as crimes and investigated unless evidence emerged to the contrary.
Rape Crisis England & Wales said it was “very concerned” by the allegations such practices were continuing.
A spokesperson said: “We [have] made it clear that levels of ‘no criming’ [recording that no crime has been
committed following a report to police] urgently needed to be addressed and are extremely disappointed if little or no improvement has been made. We are aware how incredibly difficult it can be to make a report to the police, and how disheartening it can be if those reports are met with disbelief or discouragement.”
The spokesperson added that “only 15% of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year currently even report to the police”.
In a statement the Met said it was “committed to ensuring crimes are accurately recorded and has put in place robust processes to ensure crimes are neither over- nor under-recorded”.
The force added that it had appointed a Force Crime Registrar to act as “the final arbiter regarding crime recording”.
Joanne McCartney, a member of the London Assembley and Labour’s group spokesperson on crime and policing, said: “It is essential that Boris Johnson investigates these allegations urgently and I have written to him asking to do so. If crime statistics are being falsified in any way this practise must end immediately.”
See on www.theguardian.com