Derbyshire Constabulary: Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Derbyshire Constabulary’s crime-recording arrangements are exceptionally poor. Since our 2014 crime data integrity inspection report we found that the force has:

  • improved its use and scrutiny of out-of-court disposals; and
  • recently introduced an incident resolution team (IRT) in the force operations room (FOR) which conducts initial investigations into incidents that don’t need an immediate response and is responsible for ensuring any associated crime reports are recorded.

Much work remains to be done, however. The force has only recently developed and started to implement a crime-recording improvement plan. This includes recommendations we made in our 2014 report. Also, the force has made only limited progress against the national action plan developed in 2014 to improve crime recording within policing. This is seriously undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.

We examined crime reports from 1 March 2018 to 31 August 2018. Based on this, we estimate that the force fails to record over 30,300 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 65.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.16 percent). The 34.7 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences (including rape) and violence. It is entirely unacceptable that over one third of crimes that Derbyshire Constabulary should have recorded failed to make it onto the books.

The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 56.6 percent (with a confidence interval of +/-3.3 percent). Many of the unrecorded crimes of violence are cases of domestic abuse. This means that on too many occasions, the force is failing vulnerable victims of crime.

The force must make immediate improvements. 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:

  • incident records not correctly reflecting the reported crime;
  • poor crime-recording processes; and
  • officers and staff not properly understanding crime-recording requirements.

These are made worse by limited supervision to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity, and the lack of fully effective senior level governance arrangements.

Summary of inspection findings

We found that since our 2014 report, the force has introduced an IRT which is responsible for ensuring reported crimes are recorded when a police attendance is not required. Additionally, the force crime registrar (FCR) and his deputy – responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording requirements – have completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and are fully accredited for the role. Designated decision makers (DDMs) and an audit team support their work.

Despite these advances, Derbyshire Constabulary’s crime recording is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force currently under-records too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes (in particular common assault, harassment, malicious communications and coercive and controlling behaviour);
    • sexual offences (including rape);
    • offences involving vulnerable victims; and
    • domestic abuse-related crimes reported at the first point of contact and disclosed while completing domestic abuse (DOMA) forms used to assess risk to victims involved in domestic abuse situations.

The force needs to act promptly to improve its accuracy when recording these reports and to give all victims the service they need and deserve.

  • Officers and staff, including some supervisors, don’t properly understand the crime-recording rules and haven’t received crime-recording training appropriate to their roles.
  • The force doesn’t always record crimes reported during domestic abuse incidents.
  • The force doesn’t always correctly record incidents disclosed directly to public protection teams, particularly incidents reported by professional third parties which amount to a crime in law.
  • Delays in recording reported crimes can lead to delays in referring victims to Derbyshire Victim Services, letting down those victims who need the early support it can provide.
  • The force must improve how it collects information about the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Some of these failings are due to changes the force made since our 2014 report. These include:

  • no longer recording crime reports at the first point of contact;
  • giving officers responsibility for creating crime records on NICHE, its crime-recording system, without the appropriate safeguards; and
  • the removal of its crime-recording policy, which previously set out crime-recording arrangements and expectations of officers and staff.

Additionally, the force has made limited progress to make sure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities. There is only limited supervision of their crime-recording decisions, and senior level governance of crime-recording standards needs strengthening.

Cause of concern

In Derbyshire Constabulary, officers and staff are failing to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity. This is due to deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements and limited supervision to correct decisions and improve standards from the outset. This means that the force is letting down many victims of crime.

The force is failing to make sure it adequately records all reports of rape, sexual and violence offences, domestic abuse crimes and crimes reported directly to its public protection departments.

Recommendations

The force should immediately:

  • take steps as part of its improvement plan to address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all reports of crime;
  • make sure that every time a domestic abuse crime is reported, the incident is categorised as a crime from the outset rather than being noted on a DOMA form without creating a crime record; and
  • make sure that when reports of crime involving vulnerable adults and children are received from other agencies or disclosed during investigation, they are recorded as crimes at the point of reporting.

Within three months, the force should:

  • improve its recording practices for reports of rape and ensure it uses classification N100 correctly;
  • review its crime management unit (CMU) arrangements and take the necessary action to satisfy itself that these are effective;
  • develop and implement procedures for effectively supervising crime-recording decisions throughout the whole force, including within its FOR; and
  • put in place arrangements to make sure that when more than one crime is disclosed within an incident record, or is identified as part of other recorded crime investigations, these are recorded as soon as possible.

Within six months, the force should:

  • design and provide training for officers who make crime-recording decisions. This should include training about:
    • the amount of information required to make a crime-recording decision;
    • the expectation that reported crime is recorded as soon as sufficient information exists to do so, which in most cases will be at the point of report;
    • the importance of believing the first account of the victim;
    • the proper use of classification N100 for reports of rape;
    • how to correctly record rape crimes involving multiple offenders;
    • the additional verifiable information (AVI) required to make crime cancellation decisions;
    • how to correctly record crimes reported by third parties, in particular those reported by professional third parties; and
    • offences involving malicious communications, harassment, common assault and coercive and controlling behaviour.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • improve how it collects diversity information from victims of crime and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty;
  • put in place arrangements to improve the process for informing victims when their recorded crime has been cancelled; and
  • develop and implement an effective feedback process for all officers and staff involved in making crime-recording decisions.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime-recording rate

65.3% of reported crimes were recorded

Over 30,300 reports of crime a year are not recorded

The force has considerable work to do to ensure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document) (HOCR). We examined reports of crime which the force received, and for which it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 98.3 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) came through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 98.3 percent of crimes reported to Derbyshire Constabulary come through these routes, but that 98.3 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 65.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.16 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 30,300 reports of crime each year. These failings are a serious cause of concern and are depriving many victims of the services to which they are entitled.

Of a total of 1,800 reports of crime that we audited, we found 494 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 494 crimes, the force had recorded 266. The 228 offences not recorded included 194 offences of violence, 12 sexual offences and 22 other crimes.

We found that nearly every time, the force correctly identified from the outset when it was dealing with a domestic abuse report. Many of these reports involved a crime being reported at the first point of contact, and the force recorded this information onto a DOMA form. However, too often the force didn’t create a crime record. And many times, the incident record made at the time of the report didn’t outline that a crime had been reported. This means the attending officer didn’t always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision.

In many of these cases, failing to record these crimes resulted in:

  • victims not being provided with the service which they are entitled to and deserve;
  • no subsequent investigation, increasing the potential risk of further harm to the victims; and
  • minimal safeguarding, putting victims in potentially harmful situations.

Many of the unrecorded crimes were of a serious nature. The potential harmful situations that some victims were left in without safeguarding from the police are unacceptable.

These failings were made worse by the lack of supervisory oversight of crime-recording decisions within the FOR and at a local level. The lack of such supervisory intervention, and the subsequent lack of accountability for crime-recording standards, significantly contribute to the force’s poor crime-recording accuracy.

We are seriously concerned that the force lacks understanding of the full extent of domestic abuse crime, under-records these crimes, and doesn’t provide a satisfactory service to the victims. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

The force’s under-recording of crime reports is due in part to its crime-recording processes, its workforce’s crime-recording knowledge and supervisors’ limited capacity to effectively oversee crime-recording decisions.

We are concerned that the force’s crime-recording processes are deficient. We also found:

  • officers do not always make correct crime-recording decisions, or provide enough information to explain why a crime record isn’t required;
  • frontline officers and staff aren’t always sure of basic crime-recording principles or requirements, and often don’t understand the crime-recording rules about third-party professional reports;
  • the force doesn’t always record additional crimes that come to light after an officer’s initial attendance or during subsequent investigation; and
  • incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result incorrectly in only one crime report being recorded.

The force crime management unit (CMU) is responsible for overseeing crime occurrences to make sure crime-recording decisions are correct and for giving officers crime-recording advice. We found that these arrangements weren’t effective. Crime-recording decisions were inconsistent, and there was no standard process for giving officers feedback to help their understanding when they had been found to make incorrect decisions.

We note that the force responded immediately to our findings by updating its recently developed crime-recording improvement plan. The force must ensure this addresses fully all of our concerns from this inspection and that the governance arrangements to manage progress against this plan are effective.

Violence against the person

56.6% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 11,400 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 56.6 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.3 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 11,400 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. We therefore find the force’s under-recording of reports of violent crime to be a serious concern.

In most cases, where violent crimes were not recorded, we found the principal causes to be:

  • the processes for recording a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not properly understanding the crime-recording rules, particularly around some complex offences such as harassment or malicious communications, and the more straightforward offence of common assault;
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions; and
  • offences disclosed to call takers in DOMA forms not being reflected on incident records or recorded by officers.

Victims of violence and serious violence often need a lot of support. This should come from the reporting and investigating officers and other appropriate organisations, such as Derbyshire Victim Services. In these circumstances, crime recording is even more important. If the force fails to record a violent crime properly, it can mean victims aren’t referred to support services. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

77.9% of reported sex offences were recorded

Over 540 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape) is a cause of concern. We found that it records 77.9 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.29 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 540 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

These failings are significant because of the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found that the force failed to record sexual offences committed against adults and children, including:

  • sexual assaults;
  • inciting a child to commit a sexual act;
  • sexual activity with a child;
  • exposure; and
  • outraging public decency.

The causes of that under-recording are similar to those described earlier:

  • the deficiency of the processes for recording a reported crime;
  • officers and staff not properly understanding the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. Failing to record such crimes, to give the victim appropriate support or to attend or investigate promptly will often cause the victim to lack confidence in the police. This can make the victim reluctant to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. Derbyshire Constabulary must improve its performance in this respect.

Rape

159 of 193 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. It helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this allows the police to identify and deal with perpetrators as efficiently as possible.

In Derbyshire Constabulary we found 193 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but it had recorded only 159 of these. This is a cause of concern.

The 34 unrecorded rape reports came from the force incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals, and a review of N100 classifications (see below). Of these:

  • four were incorrectly classified as other crimes, such as sexual assault;
  • nine were incorrectly recorded as N100s; and
  • 21 hadn’t been recorded at all.

The force didn’t provide appropriate safeguarding in many of these cases and conducted no investigation whatsoever in seven of them. The perpetrator in one of the unrecorded reports was later connected to another crime of rape. This illustrates the importance of recording reports of crime and conducting timely investigations. Had this happened, it may have prevented the perpetrator in this case from further offending and the later victim from experiencing the trauma of a serious crime.

The causes of the under-recording of rape crimes are the same as identified above in respect of other sexual offences.

The force must improve its recording and investigation of rape offences to make sure it has a clear picture of demand and offending behaviour. It must be able to satisfy itself that it always provides the service and support victims of rape have a right to expect.

There are also some issues surrounding the force’s use of the Home Office classification N100. The N100 was introduced in April 2015. Its purpose is to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, whether they are reported by victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t immediately been recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where new information confirms the rape didn’t take place, or where the rape took place in another force area and was transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found 17 incident reports for which the force should have recorded an N100 classification. Of these, it had correctly recorded only seven.

Separately, we examined a sample of 21 N100s that the force had already recorded. Of these:

  • eight should have been recorded as a rape crime from the outset;
  • one was reclassified as a crime of sexual assault;
  • one was included in the audit sample in error as it was recorded correctly as a rape crime from the outset;
  • two were duplicate N100 records; and
  • nine were correctly recorded, five of which were later correctly turned into recorded rape crimes after victim confirmation of the offence.

The use of N100s is not well understood by officers and staff within the force. This includes the incorrect use of classification N100 when third party professionals make rape reports providing enough information to record a rape crime from the outset.

As with other sexual offences, the recording of a report of rape is important. Victims will often need a great deal of support from the start. Any delay, or failure to record the crime correctly, can have a negative impact on both the victim’s recovery and any investigation. This, in turn, can negatively influence future judicial proceedings.

How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?

graded inadequate

Crime reports held on other systems

3 of 11 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

To be confident that vulnerable victims always get the support they need, the force must improve its recording of crimes reported directly to its public protection teams.

We examined 25 adult and 25 child vulnerable victim records. We found the force had recorded three out of 11 crimes that it should have recorded.

Four of the unrecorded crimes related to vulnerable adult victims. They included three assaults and one offence of coercive and controlling behaviour. The remaining four unrecorded crimes related to vulnerable child victims and included:

  • one sexual assault;
  • one assault;
  • one breach of a restraining order; and
  • one offence of coercive and controlling behaviour.

These crime reports all originated from third party professionals (such as health professionals and social services). When they were received, they were reviewed by staff either in the multi-agency safeguarding hub or child protection team. The other agencies provided safeguarding in five of these cases, but there was no investigation in any of them.

There are serious risks associated with under-recording reports of crime received from third party professionals which involve vulnerable people. So the extent to which Derbyshire Constabulary does not record these reports of crime is a cause of concern.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. So we reviewed how well the force records reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined its understanding of the origin of such reports.

We found that Derbyshire Constabulary could improve its crime-recording arrangements for modern slavery crime. We examined 32 modern slavery records. From these we found that 21 modern slavery crimes should have been recorded and the force had recorded only 16. Additionally, nine other crimes from these records should also have been recorded but the force had only recorded four. The five unrecorded crimes involved two offences of false imprisonment and three of theft. The force also recorded six modern slavery crimes unnecessarily.

We also examined a further 20 modern slavery referrals and assessed them to contain no reports of crime. However, many of these records contained insufficient information to satisfy us that the force had fully considered the referral. Further follow-up may well have identified criminal offences. For example, in one case a senior officer recorded a review in October 2018 of a referral received in July 2018. The officer instructed that action was required in several areas. Despite this, at the time of our inspection in November 2018 there was no record of further action having been taken.

The force is implementing a new dedicated modern slavery team. This should improve development of intelligence and the approach taken to identifying modern slavery crime. This is encouraging.

Timeliness

If the information the force gets at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, it should record the crime straight away, and in any case within 24 hours.

We found that, of the reports of crime the force had recorded, it had only recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 421 out of 464 reports of violent crime;
  • 271 out of 321 sexual offences; and
  • 352 out of 385 other offences.

Further improvement could be achieved. But generally, when the force makes the correct crime-recording decisions, its processes work well to make sure it records the crime within 24 hours as the rules require. This timely recording means it can make early referrals to Derbyshire Victim Services for those who require this service. This is very welcome.

Cancelled crimes

If AVI shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. In this respect the force needs to improve.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, violence, sexual offences and robbery. Of these, we found that the FCR had correctly cancelled 16 out of 20 crimes of rape. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled:

  • 18 out of 19 sexual offences (excluding rape);
  • 13 out of 19 violence offences; and
  • 16 out of 20 robbery offences.

If a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force to investigate, victims should always know the status of their reported crime. If the force decides to cancel a recorded crime, the very least the victim should expect is an explanation of why it decided this. We found that, of the 57 victims who should have been told of the transfer or cancellation, only 45 were told of the decision. So this is also an area for improvement.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime (Document) gives police forces clear guidance about the service they should give crime victims. We have concluded that the force is aware of its responsibilities under this code.

The police and crime commissioner engages Derbyshire Victim Services to provide general victim services to those affected by crime in the county. The independent charity Remedi runs this service. It will help anyone who has been a victim of crime, whether or not it has been reported to the police and irrespective of when the crime occurred.

The Derbyshire police and crime commissioner has also commissioned Remedi to run a targeted support service for young people who have been victims of crime. Victims aged under 18 have access to specialist support through the Got Your Back website. This is good practice.

Equality

We found that the force must improve the way it collects information about crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age don’t necessarily make someone more vulnerable to the risk of crime. However, it is important that the force records information about victims’ characteristics. This helps to identify any patterns between different community groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

The force can record victim ethnicity on its crime-recording system. But this is often not done when it records a crime, leaving the CMU to ask officers for this information when a crime record is filed. The force didn’t record religion, sexual orientation or disability within its crime-recording system. Importantly, so long as it fails to record such information, it won’t be able to understand clearly whether its crime-recording decisions are consistent across different community groups. So this is an area for improvement.

Officer and staff survey

We carried out a survey of officers and staff in Derbyshire Constabulary about their experience of crime recording. Disappointingly, only 127 respondents took part. But we were pleased that most respondents said they were aware of their responsibility to challenge and report unethical, unacceptable or unprofessional crime-recording behaviours. And most confirmed they didn’t experience pressure (of any sort) not to record crime accurately.

How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?

graded inadequate

Derbyshire Constabulary’s senior leadership governance of crime-recording standards must improve. Of the 31 forces inspected to date, this is the first time we have found crime-recording leadership to be inadequate.

A temporary assistant chief constable (ACC) is the chief officer lead for crime recording. However, in recent times this post holder has changed frequently. These changes have meant that the force has lacked the consistent strategic leadership necessary to maintain effective governance of crime-recording standards. And in 2017, the force removed crime data integrity from its risk register. So it lost senior level oversight of the risks associated with failing to maintain good crime-recording standards. It couldn’t provide a clear rationale for this decision.

We found that officers and staff had received, and were enthusiastic about, chief officer messages on “doing the right thing”. This is a commitment to providing a high-quality policing service to everyone in Derbyshire. However, as part of this initiative the force had removed its crime-recording policies. Officers and staff have interpreted this to mean that following the national crime-recording rules is a matter of choice and contingent on the situation. They have interpreted similarly the chief constable’s recent video message about the relevance of the HOCR.

Additionally, the force’s response to our 2014 report’s findings and the national action plan was ineffective. And further changes, such as removing the crime-recording policy and passing responsibility to individual officers to create crime records, have been detrimental.

The FCR has direct access to the temporary ACC through quarterly meetings. He can also request meetings outside of these if there is a pressing issue. But the FCR also carries out other responsibilities in the FOR. This is the first time in this inspection programme that we have found an FCR with dual responsibilities. This limits his capacity to provide proper oversight of the force’s crime-recording standards. The force is reviewing this arrangement.

We welcome the leadership of the temporary ACC, who presented a developing vision on how the force could improve its crime-recording standards. The force developed a crime-recording improvement plan during 2018. This is managed through a steering group which the ACC chairs. The force now understands that proper crime recording is important to make sure victims receive the appropriate service from the police and assistance from victim support groups. So we are confident that it will improve upon the crime-recording standards we found during this inspection.

Conclusion

Derbyshire Constabulary’s crime-recording arrangements are inadequate. It must work hard to make the necessary improvements so that crime victims can be confident their reports will be taken seriously, recorded and investigated.

The force must improve its crime-recording processes, make sure that officers and staff fully understand the standards expected of them, and supervise these standards effectively.

What next?

We expect the force urgently to make progress implementing recommendations we make in this report.

The serious causes of concern found during this inspection are such that we will re-visit the force to assess progress.