Cheshire Constabulary: Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018
Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2018
In March 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted a crime data integrity inspection of Cheshire Constabulary.
We published the report of this inspection in June 2017 and concluded that the crime-recording arrangements in Cheshire Constabulary were not acceptable. As a result, the constabulary was given an overall judgment of inadequate.
Our 2017 report made a series of recommendations and areas for improvement aimed at improving crime recording in Cheshire. This re-inspection assessed the progress made since that report.
The findings and our judgment resulting from this re-inspection set out below.
Please note: The previous inspection was carried out before 19 July 2017, when HMIC also took on responsibility for fire & rescue service inspections and was renamed HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. The methodology underpinning our re-inspection findings is unaffected by this change.
References to HMICFRS in this report may relate to an event that happened before 19 July 2017 when HMICFRS was HMIC.
- Overall judgment
- Summary of inspection findings
- How effective is the constabulary at recording reported crime?
- How efficiently do the systems and processes in the constabulary support accurate crime recording?
- How well does the constabulary demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
- What next?
Cheshire Constabulary has made efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy which has led to some improvements since HMIC’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. We found that:
- the majority of officers and staff have made progress in placing the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions;
- the constabulary has worked hard in bringing about improvements in the knowledge and understanding of the crime-recording requirements for modern day slavery crimes among officers and staff; and
- its victim support team (Cheshire Cares) is well-established, providing victims of recorded crime with access to support services to which they are entitled.
Much work remains to be done, however. The constabulary is yet to complete all of the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report, and has made only limited progress against a national action plan developed to improve police crime-recording. This is seriously undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.
Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 June 2016 to 30 November 2016, we estimate that the force fails to record over 11,600 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 83.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.79 percent). The 16.4 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 80.9 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.00 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the constabulary is failing victims of crime.
Improvements must be made in many areas. In particular, we consider that there are too many failures to make the correct crime-recording decision at the first opportunity. These failures are often due to poor crime-recording processes and an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff, compounded by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.
Cheshire Constabulary has substantially improved its crime-recording accuracy since HMICFRS’s 2017 inspection. We found that the constabulary has made excellent progress and as a result extensive improvements have been made to its:
- recording of violent crimes (including domestic abuse crimes);
- recording of serious sexual offences (including rape offences and understanding and management of N100s);
- recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams;
- supervision of crime-recording decisions;
- use of feedback to improve crime-recording decisions; and
- crime-recording governance and audit arrangements.
We examined crime reports for the period 1 December 2017 to 28 February 2018. Based on our findings, we estimate that the constabulary records 96.4 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.47 percent) of crimes reported to it. This compares with our 2017 inspection finding of 83.6 percent (confidence interval +/- 1.79 percent). We estimate that, in comparison with the findings of our 2017 inspection, this improved recording accuracy meant that the force recorded an additional 11,500 crimes for the year covered by our re-inspection audit period. As a result, substantially more victims will have their reported crimes recorded. These victims have received an improved service and been offered additional support from Cheshire Cares. In addition, the force has improved its understanding of demand and the extent to which crime is affecting its communities.
The constabulary is determined to get crime recording right, to develop a clear understanding of the criminality affecting its communities and to respond appropriately to this demand.
However, there are a few areas where the constabulary acknowledges that it still has further work to do. It recognises that some reports of crime are still not recorded and that it must work to:
- make sure all reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report;
- make sure victims (in cases where they should be notified) are always notified when a decision has been taken to cancel a recorded crime; and
- improve its collection of equality data regarding victims of crime.
We also found there is still occasional misunderstanding of third-party reporting, use of N100s and the standard of additional verifiable information (AVI) required to cancel a crime. These issues are neither systemic nor widespread.
At the time of our inspection a small minority of staff had not yet completed their crime-recording training. However, the constabulary has effective processes in place which should ensure that all staff receive the necessary training.
We are confident the constabulary will achieve further progress in these areas. This is due to its sustained commitment to continuous improvement and its proven ability to deliver significant advances since our 2017 inspection.
Summary of inspection findings
The constabulary has made some improvements in its crime-recording arrangements since our 2014 report. We found that:
- some progress has been made against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following the 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement. This includes improvements to the constabulary’s use of out-of-court disposals (e.g. cautions and community resolutions); and
- the constabulary has made good progress in developing an understanding of modern day slavery offences among officers and staff.
Despite these advances, the constabulary’s performance in respect of crime-recording is unacceptable in the following areas:
- The constabulary is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
- violent crimes;
- reports of rape; and
- other sexual offences.
The constabulary needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.
- The constabulary has made insufficient progress with implementing changes recommended in the 2014 report.
- Incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection teams as part of multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such.
- Delays to the recording of a reported crime are leading to delays in the referral of victims to the constabulary’s in-house victim care unit (Cheshire Cares), letting down those victims who need the early support this team can provide.
- The constabulary must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.
Some of these failings are a consequence of insufficient progress having been made to ensure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities. In addition, there is limited supervision of the crime-recording decisions taken by officers and staff and crime-recording processes are applied inconsistently in different areas of the constabulary.
Causes of concern and areas for improvement
In 2017, we identified several causes of concern and areas for improvement, you can view these in the full version of the 2017 report.
In addition to the substantial improvements to its crime-recording accuracy detailed above, the constabulary has:
- comprehensively mapped its crime-recording processes to ensure that it has a detailed understanding of all the channels through which it receives reports of crime;
- provided officers and staff with a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to crime recording;
- provided comprehensive training which has improved the understanding of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff;
- improved supervision and quality assurance of crime-recording decisions – both centrally within the occurrence management unit (OMU) and locally in the local policing units (LPUs) – to make sure that better crime-recording decisions are being made;
- effective departmental learning feedback processes in place which support its commitment to continual improvement; and
- strong audit and governance arrangements in place to ensure that the improvements made to its crime-recording accuracy are sustainable and ongoing.
The constabulary has also completed all the recommendations made in our 2017 report, including:
- a review of the operating arrangements of its force contact centre (FCC) (including the OMU) and its diary appointment system;
- the introduction of a call-handling quality-assurance process which includes checking that all crimes identified from calls are correctly recorded;
- the recruitment of a deputy force crime registrar; and
- creating additional crime-recording audit capacity.
During 2017 the constabulary experienced staff shortages within the FCC, which prevented it from implementing crime recording at first point of contact. This resulted in temporary backlogs in crime recording and adversely affected the constabulary’s ability to record all crimes when first reported and within 24 hours. However, the constabulary expects the FCC to be fully staffed by the end of 2018. This will improve its capability to record crime at first point of contact, and to ensure it records all reports of crime within 24 hours of receipt of the report.
We note that the constabulary is making good use of its available management information. It now has a better understanding of crime-recording compliance and the factors that can adversely affect crime-recording performance. This is a welcome development.
How effective is the constabulary at recording reported crime?
Overall crime-recording rate
96.4% of reported crimes were recorded
The constabulary has considerable work to do in order to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the constabulary received, and for which an auditable record was created. The constabulary informed HMIC that all crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route.
We found that the constabulary recorded 83.6 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.79 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 11,600 reports of crime each year. Those failings are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled and are a cause of concern.
Of a total of 1,580 reports of crime that we audited, we found 340 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 340 crimes, the constabulary had recorded 260. The 80 offences not recorded included a serious assault, offences of violence and crimes involving harassment and malicious communication.
We found that many of these reports involved the reporting of a crime at the first point of contact with the constabulary, but these crime reports went unrecorded with little rationale to explain why.
We found no record of safeguarding requirements having been considered in well over half of these cases. This absence of safeguarding included one report of rape, one of stalking and one of threats to kill. We also found that the absence of a crime record resulted in fewer than a quarter of these reports of crime being investigated, thereby increasing the potential risk of harm to the victim.
The absence of understanding of the extent of domestic abuse crime, the under-recording of crimes related to domestic incidents, and the failure to provide safeguarding and a satisfactory service to these victims are a serious concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.
Factors contributing to the constabulary’s under-recording of crime reports are its crime-recording processes, the crime-recording knowledge of its workforce and the limited capacity of supervisors to provide effective oversight of crime-recording decisions.
Deficiencies in the constabulary’s crime-recording processes are a concern. In particular, we found that:
- when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the constabulary does not always record reported crimes;
- incident records that contain multiple reports often result in only one crime report being recorded;
- the responsibility for making a crime-recording decision is unclear. Some crimes are recorded directly at the point of the report by the OMU (the constabulary’s crime recording and crime management unit). In these cases the constabulary performs well. However, if an officer is deployed to the reported crime, the crime can be recorded by the attending response officer, a specialist detective or by the OMU. Some officers will make the decision to record a crime and will do so directly onto the constabulary crime-recording system Niche, whereas others will contact the OMU to have the crime recorded. In some cases, the OMU will take the decision-making out of the hands of the attending officer.
We found that call-handlers (who receive reports of crime by telephone), frontline officers and staff working in police station enquiry offices, are not always sure of crime-recording requirements. In particular:
- basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to common assault, malicious communications and harassment are not always understood. For example, we found that staff were unsure of the crime-recording rules regarding common assault where there is no physical assault but there is the threat of one; and
- at the point of reporting, on occasion, when assessing whether, on the balance of probability, an offence has been committed, insufficient emphasis has been given to the account of the victim.
A further problem relates to the constabulary’s supervision of its crime-recording decisions. We found supervision of its crime-recording decisions requires improvement and in particular:
- supervisors do not have the capacity to scrutinise adequately all crime related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct;
- despite call-handling supervisors carrying out regular dip-sampling of call handlers’ work, this does not include a check of crime-recording decisions;
- we found that force incident sergeants who are expected to scrutinise crime-recording decisions on every domestic abuse, sexual and anti-social behaviour incident make inconsistent decisions as to when a crime should or should not be recorded; and
- uniformed sergeants who are not authorised to file crime records are doing so, thereby preventing the OMU from identifying those cases where additional crimes have been disclosed and for which a crime record should be created.
We also note, in concluding this section, that the FCR has no deputy and no audit staff, instead carrying out all crime-recording related audit activity himself. He also takes responsibility for training some staff in crime-recording requirements, working regularly alongside staff in the call-centre and OMU to improve crime-recording decision-making. Consequently, the time the FCR has to carry out this important audit work is limited. For example, the FCR does not audit any modern slavery or public protection team records. As these often contain reports of serious crime involving vulnerable adults and children the absence of audit leaves a serious gap in the constabulary’s understanding of the effectiveness of its crime-recording arrangements.
The constabulary has made significant progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the constabulary received, and for which an auditable record was created. The constabulary informed us that 94.2 percent of crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This does not mean that 94.2 percent of crimes reported to Cheshire Constabulary come through these routes but that 94.2 percent of crime is recorded this way.
We found that the constabulary recorded 96.4 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.47 percent). We estimate that this means the constabulary is recording an additional 11,500 reported crimes each year. This is a substantial improvement.
In most cases where crimes are still not recorded, we found this was because:
- clear disclosures of crimes are being made during calls that are not recorded as crimes at the first point of contact by the OMU;
- incident records that contain multiple reports of crime sometimes result in only one crime being recorded; and
- following a deployment, officers do not always record a comprehensive explanation for why a crime should not be recorded.
Of a total of 672 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 145 of these related to domestic abuse. Of these, the constabulary had recorded 140. The five offences not recorded were four offences of common assault and one offence of criminal damage from two different incidents.
The first case was an incident where multiple crimes were reported between different family members and would appear to be a misunderstanding of the crime-recording rules. The second case was an incident where the caller made an allegation of historic criminal damage in the call and officers subsequently attended but did not sufficiently negate the historic crime. We found that safeguarding had been conducted in both cases, and that a proportionate investigation had been completed in the first case.
This high recording rate for domestic abuse incidents has contributed significantly to the overall crime-recording results achieved by the constabulary. We are pleased to note that since our inspection the constabulary has now recorded these missed domestic abuse crimes.
As part of its improved audit regime, the constabulary has introduced daily checks of all domestic abuse crimes. The findings from these checks are included within departmental learning feedback processes. This includes sharing the results of these checks on a weekly basis with the chief officer lead for crime data integrity (CDI) and the three LPU superintendents. The results are also reported to the CDI monitoring group.
We conclude that the constabulary has taken the necessary steps to ensure that it records reports of crime from victims of domestic abuse.
94.7% of reported violent crimes were recorded
We found that 80.9 percent of violent crimes reported to the constabulary are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.00 percent). This is lower than the overall crime recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 3,800 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, this is an area in which the need for improvement is particularly acute.
Many of these crimes involve injury, which can cause even further distress for the victim. These included reports of grievous bodily harm. We therefore find the recording of reports of violent crime by the constabulary to be a serious cause of concern.
In the majority of cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:
- the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly around the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and the more straightforward offence of common assault. This results in the failure to record many such reports of crime; and
- an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
Victims of violent crime and, in particular, victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but also, possibly, from the victim support team, Cheshire Cares. Under those circumstances, crime-recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Cheshire Cares receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn, deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.
We found that 94.7 percent of violent crimes reported to the constabulary are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.57 percent). We estimate that, in comparison with the findings of our 2017 inspection, the constabulary is now recording an additional 3,820 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. Again, this is a substantial improvement.
The causes of these missed crimes are described above.
96.8% of reported sex offences were recorded
The constabulary’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape), is a cause of concern. We found that the constabulary records 84.8 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.10 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 280 reported sexual offence crimes each year.
Those failings are significant given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found, for example, that the constabulary failed to record reports of rape (see the next section), sexual assault against both adults and children, sexual activity with a person with a mental disorder and incitement of children to commit a sexual act.
The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
- the absence of a clear policy which sets out who is responsible for recording such crimes;
- an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
- on occasion, when assessing whether, on the balance of probability, an offence has been committed, insufficient emphasis has been given to the account of the victim, particularly where the victim does not wish to pursue any prosecution, where the victim is intoxicated or where the person reporting the crime is a professional third party acting on their behalf.
Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The constabulary must improve its performance in this respect.
The constabulary records 96.8 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.76 percent). We estimate it is recording an additional 310 reported sexual offence crimes each year, a substantial improvement.
The few crimes missed included four offences against children, a sexual assault and a breach of a sexual harm prevention order (SHPO). All these were cases where multiple crimes had been disclosed. The OMU performs a proactive role in monitoring sexual incidents, adding relevant comments to guide officers where necessary. This is good practice.
Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.
In Cheshire Constabulary we found 138 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 109 of these had been recorded. This is a cause of concern. These include reports that originated on the force incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals, and from a review of N100 records (see below). Seven of these missed records of rape had been classified in error as a different crime.
However, we found that although a crime may not have been recorded, Cheshire Constabulary provided support and safeguarding in all but two of these cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate, and carried out an investigation in all but three. The two cases in which safeguarding did not take place included a third party professional report of rape and a domestic incident, during which an historic allegation of rape was made. The level and extent of the service provided in these cases is below acceptable standards.
The causes of the under-recording of these 29 crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences. These are:
- the deficiency of the processes that are currently in place for the recording of a reported crime;
- officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules;
- the absence of a clear policy which sets out who is responsible for recording such crimes;
- an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
- on occasion, a lack of belief in the account of the victim, where the victim does not wish to pursue any prosecution, where the victim is intoxicated or where the person reporting the crime is a professional third party acting on behalf of the victim.
There are, in addition, some serious issues surrounding the constabulary’s use of the Home Office classification N100. Introduced in April 2015, the N100 is a record created to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rapes, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties, have not been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where additional information confirms the rape did not occur, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.
We found 29 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied but it was only applied on nine occasions.
Separately, we also reviewed 18 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. Among these, we found four reports that the constabulary should have recorded as crimes of rape. All four involved victims with mental health problems and three of them were third party professional reports.
We found very little understanding of the N100 classification among frontline officers, including those working in the specialist public protection department or the call centre. Awareness was better in the OMU but, even in this team where compliance with HOCR is the fundamental role, there was a lack of full understanding. The constabulary must ensure that it uses classification N100 consistently on all relevant occasions in order to minimise the delay in recording an offence of rape.
As with other sexual offences, the recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. This, in turn, can negatively influence future judicial proceedings.
48 of 51 audited rape reports were accurately recorded
Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure the victim receives the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.
We found the constabulary had improved all aspects of rape recording. We identified 51 reports of rape which should have been recorded and found that 48 were recorded. Of the three rapes not recorded, two were misclassified as sexual assault. The other missing rape was already recorded as an N100. All victims were safeguarded and all the crimes have now been correctly classified. Only one case was not investigated, because the victim would not confirm that an offence had taken place.
Where a reported rape is not recorded as a crime, forces are required to apply a Home Office classification N100. We also found an improvement in understanding and management of N100s.
We examined 20 sample N100 records and found that 10 were correctly applied. Six were correctly converted into rape crimes and one was correctly converted into a sexual assault crime. Two should have been recorded as rape crimes from the outset and they have since both been correctly converted into rape crimes. One should not have been recorded as it was a threat of rape.
We also found within other records that 18 N100s should have been recorded and of those 16 were correctly recorded. The two missed were from one case where only one record was used for three transferred rapes. However, all three rapes were subsequently transferred to and correctly recorded by West Midlands Police.
How efficiently do the systems and processes in the constabulary support accurate crime recording?
Crime reports held on other systems
In order to be confident that vulnerable victims always receive the support they need, the constabulary must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.
We examined 50 vulnerable victim records on Niche. Of these, we found that 33 crimes should have been recorded, of which 12 had been. The missing 21 crimes included 2 rapes, child neglect, several assaults and one of inciting a child to perform a sexual act. Moreover, we looked at 20 referrals received by email into the multi-agency referral units from third party professionals (such as health professionals and social services) and found that 11 crimes should have been recorded, of which 5 had been. These missing crime reports included a report of rape and several assaults.
The causes of the under-recording of these 27 crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences.
The public protection department holds regular continuous professional development days for all staff. As a result of HMIC’s audit, the constabulary will introduce crime-recording training into these sessions. This is reassuring.
Despite this, the extent to which reports of crime received by public protection teams are not being recorded, and the seriousness of the risks associated with the under-recording of these reports of crime, are causes of concern.
Read the full 2017 report
We found that the constabulary has made substantial progress to ensure that crimes reported directly to its public protection teams are recorded. Recording these crimes is important. It means the constabulary can be confident that vulnerable victims receive the support they need.
We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. We found that 29 out of 31 crimes that should have been recorded had been. The two crimes which were not recorded were one of engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child under 16 and one assault occasioning actual bodily harm (ABH). We also examined 18 source reports and identified that 10 crimes were required of which seven were recorded. The three missed crimes were from one incident where only one crime was recorded but four crimes should have been recorded. In all cases safeguarding requirements had been considered and investigations conducted. The constabulary has subsequently recorded these crimes.
The constabulary reviews its vulnerable victim strategy meetings for CDI compliance. This has resulted in missed reports of crime subsequently being recorded. Additionally, the constabulary is now reviewing vulnerable victim records to identify historic crimes that may not have been recorded. These processes illustrate the efforts being made to ensure victims are placed at the forefront of the constabulary’s considerations.
Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We, therefore, reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined the constabulary’s understanding of the origin of such reports.
The constabulary does not currently have a modern slavery database onto which referrals regarding reports of modern slavery are recorded. The constabulary would benefit from creating and maintaining a modern slavery database on which all such incidents and intelligence can be recorded, thus making future audits easier. The constabulary did produce a list of modern slavery incidents for audit. We found no modern slavery crimes in this list, but six other crimes were correctly recorded.
We also examined eleven reports which the constabulary had recorded as modern slavery crimes. From these, we found one modern slavery offence which was not recorded.
The constabulary works regionally, nationally and internationally in its efforts to tackle modern slavery. A dedicated single point of contact (SPOC) for modern slavery leads on the constabulary response in this area, along with a local SPOC in each local policing area. We found that regular days of action to address modern slavery are carried out under the banner of Operation Libertus, and that there are ongoing investigations currently going to court. This is encouraging.
Officers and staff have a good, basic knowledge of modern slavery offences. We also found that they have a good, basic knowledge of their respective responsibilities in relation to the recording of such offences and where they can find further information.
Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We therefore reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences and the constabulary’s understanding of the origin of such reports.
We examined 18 modern slavery records and found that 21 crimes of modern slavery were correctly recorded along with five other linked crimes. However, three other crimes were not recorded; one each of common assault, kidnap and controlling prostitution.
We also looked at 20 email records and found four modern slavery crimes that should have been recorded, of which two were. One of these two unrecorded crimes related to a referral to the force concerning an offence that took place in another force area and which should have been recorded and transferred to another force. The second related to a crime which was wrongly recorded as a crime-related incident.
Since our 2017 inspection, the constabulary has also taken action to improve its understanding and oversight of reports of modern slavery. It has linked all modern slavery crimes, non-crime incidents and intelligence reports to a modern slavery problem profile. This is overseen by a modern slavery co-ordinator. The co-ordinator ensures that incidents are linked correctly and that any identified crimes are recorded, either by the officer in the case or the local specific point of contact in the relevant LPU.
Custody sergeants have also been trained to recognise and record any modern slavery incidents that may be disclosed to them. This is good practice.
Where additional verifiable information (AVI) is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the crime record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the constabulary has made limited progress.
We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence and sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and 12 robbery crimes. Of these, we found that the FCR had correctly cancelled 17 out of 20 crimes of rapes. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of three designated staff, known as designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 17 out of 20 sexual offences, 13 out of 20 violence offences and 10 out of 12 robbery offences. The incorrect decisions in respect of sexual offences, violence and robbery are not acceptable. The incorrect decisions in respect of rape are particularly concerning.
We also found that many officers and staff had a limited understanding of what amounts to AVI for the purpose of cancelling a recorded crime.
Where a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation, a victim should always know the status of his or her reported crime. In the case of a decision to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of the reason for this decision. On many occasions we found that the victim had not been informed of the decision to cancel his or her reported crime.
The constabulary’s understanding of AVI, the decision making to cancel recorded crimes and the sharing of this decision with the victim are all areas for improvement.
Where AVI is obtained to show that a recorded crime did not occur, the record can be cancelled. All crime cancellations except rape are made by designated decision makers. Rape cancellations are made by the force crime registrar (FCR).
We examined 14 rape cancellations and found that six of these should not have been cancelled, as the AVI did not reach the standard set for cancelling rape crimes. We also examined 20 sexual offence crime cancellations and found that six should not have been cancelled. However, we found that five of the incorrect rape cancellation decisions, and two of the incorrect sexual offence cancellation decisions, were made prior to improvements the constabulary made to its approach to the cancellation of recorded crimes following our 2017 inspection.
We also examined 20 violent crime cancellations and found all but three of these were correctly cancelled.
In those cases where the victim needed to be told of the decision to cancel the crime, the constabulary only told 31 out of 43 victims.
As soon as we made the constabulary aware of this, it acted immediately by updating its crime-recording policy to clarify:
- when and how victims should be notified that a crime is cancelled; and
- who is responsible for quality assuring this process.
Finally, we examined four robbery offence cancellations and found them all to be correctly cancelled.
In October 2017, the constabulary appointed a new FCR and a deputy FCR to improve resilience and decision making. Both the FCR and the deputy FCR completed a national College of Policing course in January 2018 and both of them have recently been fully accredited for the role.
Since the inspection, the constabulary has completed a further audit of its crime cancellation decisions and the results show a substantial improvement compared to the audit period.
HMIC found that the constabulary must improve in its collection of information regarding crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.
Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age do not necessarily increase the vulnerability of an individual to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the constabulary records information regarding the characteristics of victims of crime in order to identify any patterns which may exist between different community groups and their vulnerability to (or their relative likelihood to report) different types of crime. We found that, on occasions, the constabulary does not record even the basic equality information in relation to the victim such as age and gender.
The constabulary is working to replace its command and control system. We are reassured that this work is considering how the constabulary can record all protected characteristics within the new software.
Importantly, so long as the constabulary fails to record such information, it will be unable to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. This, therefore, is an area for improvement.
In common with other forces that we have inspected, we found that while information on the age, gender and nationality of victims is recorded in most cases, information on the disability, religion and sexual orientation of victims is not routinely collected unless it is a feature of the crime itself.
However, the constabulary has made some improvements since our 2017 report. It has amended its audit methodology to include the consideration of diversity information in a similar way to that used by HMICFRS. This was incorporated in an audit of domestic incidents in January 2018. This showed that gender and age information was still generally collected but that challenges remained in the collection of ethnicity information. The audit found that crime-recording failures were proportionate to age and gender.
Now that the new command and control system is in place, the constabulary has a plan to collect better data at the point of call. The constabulary has plans to enter into a tri-force crime-recording IT platform with North Wales and Merseyside police forces in October 2018. This will result in a full data merge across all crime records. They will be able to establish common equality data collection processes and to use the information in a more consistent manner. The progress since our 2017 report and the constabulary’s plan for continuous improvement is welcome.
How well does the constabulary demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
It is clear that the majority of officers and staff are placing the needs of the victim at the heart of their crime-recording decisions. However, the constabulary should ensure that this approach is applied by all officers and staff. We found deficiencies in crime-recording arrangements, together with an insufficient knowledge of crime-recording requirements among officers and staff.
We found good leadership from senior officers with regard to crime-recording expectations. However, the constabulary has achieved only some improvements to the effectiveness of its crime-recording arrangements since 2014 and has far more to do if it is to stop failing victims of crime.
Limited progress has been made against the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics following our 2014 report, and which all forces have been asked to implement.
The constabulary is yet to complete all recommendations for improvement made within our 2014 report. The limited progress in this regard is not acceptable.
The progress made in out-of-court disposals is notable. Inspectors were impressed with the process in place to monitor all such disposals, including the use of independent scrutiny panels. Procedural documents are clear and concise; these ensure that considerations as to the suitability of the use of the disposal for both the victim and offender are very good.
We found a noticeable difference in the constabulary’s CDI performance, and the general crime-recording culture is now positive and victim-focused. Accurate crime recording and ensuring the best possible service to victims of crime are priorities. The constabulary’s senior leadership clearly states this. We did not identify any adverse cultural practices in respect of crime recording within the constabulary.
Following the publication of our 2017 inspection findings, the deputy chief constable (DCC) took responsibility for leading the work to improve the constabulary’s crime-recording arrangements. The constabulary has re-emphasised its crime-recording expectations and explained them to officers and staff, ensuring crime-recording responsibilities are understood. In relation to this, the DCC and the FCR have both been visible across the constabulary, and messages to officers and staff have been clear. The constabulary uses various methods of communication to inform officers and staff about crime-recording and any changes to rules and processes.
We also found evidence of strong governance at a senior level. An action plan deals with all issues raised in our previous CDI inspections of the constabulary. This is overseen by the CDI monitoring group which is chaired by the DCC. This has improved senior officer oversight of crime-recording arrangements, systems and processes, and of officer and staff supervision and training. Consequently, we were pleased to find the constabulary has completed all of the recommendations from our 2017 report. Officers and staff are now placing the needs of more victims at the heart of their crime-recording decisions.
The FCR maintains a comprehensive crime-recording audit programme. This is in line with the constabulary’s strategic assessment, strategic priorities and perceived crime-recording risks. The DCC has overall responsibility for the audit plan. To support this, the constabulary has increased its capacity to audit. All audit staff have been trained and are using the HMICFRS crime-recording audit methodology. This is good practice.
There is clear direction from senior officers regarding the importance of taking a complete view of crime recording, taking into consideration staff, IT, processes and governance. This approach has ensured that the constabulary has made excellent progress and has substantially improved its crime-recording arrangements. We are confident that these improvements are sustainable.
The constabulary has made excellent progress in improving its crime-recording processes since our 2017 inspection.
The leadership shown has resulted in a cultural change regarding the importance of crime recording among officers and staff. This has ensured that more victims receive the service to which they are entitled, and have access to support and safeguarding where required.
We welcome the steps taken by Cheshire Constabulary to improve its crime-recording arrangements. We expect the constabulary to continue to make further progress and to build on the improvements made so far. We will continue to monitor progress.
The constabulary, as with all police forces, may be subject to a further unannounced crime data integrity inspection at any time.