Gwent Police - Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Gwent Police has made a concerted effort to record crime more accurately since HMICFRS’s 2014 crime data integrity inspection report. We found a commitment to ethical crime recording that is victim-focused and free from performance pressures of any kind.

We found the force has:

  • developed and provided crime-recording training for all police officers and staff who are responsible for making crime-recording decisions;
  • good crime-recording arrangements around sexual offences, vulnerable victims and modern slavery crimes;
  • fully implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • made good progress against a national action plan developed to improve crime recording by police forces.

Despite these advances, the force is still failing some victims of crime. We examined crime reports from 1 November 2017 to 30 April 2018. Based on this, we estimate that the force fails to record over 5,100 reported crimes each year. This is a recording rate of 90.5 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.64 percent). The 9.5 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include violence offences and those that result from domestic abuse.

Incorrect recording decisions are often caused by officers and staff not understanding the crime-recording rules. The force has provided additional training. But we found that some staff and officers still don’t properly understand the crime-recording requirements for:

  • common assault;
  • harassment;
  • malicious communications; and
  • public order offences.

These errors are further compounded by limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. In particular, we found it has:

  • reformed its communications suite processes;
  • increased its ability to record certain crimes at first point of contact, where enough information exists to do so;
  • set up a quality assurance framework in its communications suite to improve standards, service and crime-recording compliance;
  • introduced a team in its communications suite that is responsible for making sure identified crime reports are recorded within 24 hours;
  • fully implemented all the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • fully implemented all the recommendations set out in a national action plan developed to improve police crime recording.

The force crime registrar (FCR), responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements, has completed a national College of Policing course and is fully accredited for the role. Her work is supported by a small audit team.

Despite these advances, the force’s crime-recording must improve in the following areas:

  • Frontline officers don’t always identify and record some violent crimes, particularly those arising from domestic abuse incidents like common assault, harassment or malicious communications.
  • Frontline officers don’t always record other crimes like criminal damage and public order offences.
  • Officers and staff don’t properly understand the crime-recording rules, which often causes incorrect recording decisions. These errors are made worse by limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.
  • Not all officers and staff properly understand or use the Home Office classification N100, to explain why the force has not immediately recorded reported incidents of rape as a confirmed crime.
  • The force must collect more information about the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities, especially groups with identifiable protected characteristics like sexuality, disability or religion.

At the time of our inspection, the force had recognised problems with how it handled reports of domestic abuse crimes. To address them it has recently:

  • nominated a detective chief inspector (DCI) to improve domestic abuse crime recording, by raising awareness and giving bespoke training to officers and staff;
  • developed a comprehensive domestic abuse action plan to make sure that it responds professionally and effectively to domestic abuse incidents;
  • introduced daily sampling and reviewing of domestic abuse incidents to make sure it has correctly recorded all identified crimes; and
  • introduced a template which supervisors must complete on all domestic abuse crime records.

These improvements are encouraging.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • make sure that call handlers always record on the incident log full details of their conversation with the person reporting a crime, so that attending officers always have the full information to make their crime-recording decisions;
  • improve supervision of crime-recording decisions on the front line and within its communications suite;
  • improve its understanding and use of the N100 classification, for those reports of rape which it doesn’t immediately record as a crime; and
  • improve how it collects diversity information from crime victims and how it uses this to inform its compliance with its equality duty.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded requires improvement

Overall crime-recording rate

90.5% of reported crimes were recorded

Over 5,100 reports of crime a year are not recorded

The force has more work to do to make sure it records all reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR). We examined reports of crime the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force told us that 94.8 percent of crime it records (except fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 94.8 percent of crimes reported to Gwent Police come through these routes, but that 94.8 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 90.5 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.64 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 5,100 reports of crime each year.

Of the 1,247 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 333 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 289. The 44 unrecorded offences were 33 violent crimes, 1 sexual crime and 10 other crimes. We found that many of these crime reports were made at the first point of contact with the force. But the force didn’t record them and didn’t properly explain why. It is vital to record reported crimes of domestic abuse, as many victims are vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

We found that the force had considered safeguarding requirements in most of these unrecorded reports. But in eight cases we found no record on the report of safeguarding requirements being considered. And in half of these crimes we found that the reported crimes weren’t investigated because there was no crime record. We also found ten occasions where the force had not completed a domestic abuse, stalking and harassment (DASH) risk assessment.

The force’s supervision of crime-recording decisions on the front line and within its communications suite requires improvement.

Violence against the person

88.9% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 1,800 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 88.9 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.64 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate above. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 1,800 violent crimes that are reported to it each year. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, and many of these crimes involve injury, better recording is particularly important.

In most cases where violent crimes were not recorded, we found:

  • call handlers don’t always record on the incident log full details of their conversation with the person reporting a crime, so attending officers don’t always have the full information to make their crime-recording decisions;
  • frontline officers and staff in the force’s communications suite don’t always understand basic crime-recording principles or the recording rules about common assault, harassment, malicious communications, criminal damage and public order offences;
  • after a deployment, officers don’t always record a proper explanation for why they didn’t record a crime; and
  • limited supervision on the front line and within the force’s communications suite to correct poor crime-recording decisions as soon as possible.

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 Connect Gwent. 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 Connect Gwent. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

93.2% of reported sex offences were recorded

Over 90 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded

The force records 93.2 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.44 percent). We estimate that the force is not recording over 90 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

This recording rate is good. It shows the force has given closer attention to reports of sexual offences since our 2014 report. This is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.

Our audit identified 16 reported sexual offences which the force had not recorded. These included reports of sexual assault, offences involving sexual activity with a child and an exposure offence.

In most cases where sexual crimes were not recorded, we found that:

  • some officers and staff were unsure of the basic crime-recording principles and recording rules about sexual offences;
  • incident records that contained multiple crime reports often led to only one crime report being recorded; and
  • there is limited supervision of crime recording to correct these decisions as soon as possible.

Addressing these issues will help the force to further improve its sexual offence recording standards.

Rape

85 of 92 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.

We found 92 reports of rape that should have been recorded. But the force had correctly recorded only 85 of these. Of these unrecorded crimes, we found that:

  • three were incorrectly classified as other crimes;
  • two were incorrectly recorded as an N100 record (see below); and
  • two went completely unrecorded.

Of the 85 recorded rapes, almost all were recorded within 24 hours as required by the crime-recording rules. We found that the force provided safeguarding to all the victims of the unrecorded crimes. But in three cases it did no subsequent investigation.

We also found the force had over recorded four rapes. It should have classified all of these as sexual assaults.

The force could improve how it uses 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 from victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t been immediately recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include 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 21 reports which the force should have applied an N100 classification for. It applied this classification on 13 of these occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 18 sample records where the force had used an N100 classification. Among these we found: one report that should have been recorded as a rape but wasn’t; one which the force had later correctly recorded as a rape; and one unnecessary N100 record. The force recorded this after it had already recorded the rape crime. The remaining 15 N100 records were correctly classified.

The use of N100s is not well understood by officers responding to incidents, or by staff in the communications suite and elsewhere. So this is an area for improvement for the force.

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

graded good

Crime reports held on other systems

30 of 31 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For vulnerable victims to get the support they need, it is important that forces always record crimes reported directly to public protection teams. We were pleased to find the force works hard to make sure this is the case.

We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. We found that the force should have recorded 31 crimes, of which it had recorded 30. The missing crime was a common assault against a child victim. This was a third party professional report of an additional crime against this child victim. Despite this crime not being recorded, we found that the force had properly safeguarded the victim and completed an investigation.

Modern slavery

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

We checked 22 modern slavery crime records and found that the force had correctly recorded 21 modern slavery crimes. It had also correctly recorded three additional rape crimes, one grievous bodily harm, one assault occasioning actual bodily harm, one common assault and an offence of robbery.

We also examined 20 modern slavery referrals the force received from other organisations. From these there were seven crimes that the force should have recorded, but it only recorded three. The four unrecorded crimes were three of modern slavery and one of rape. The force should take more care to make sure it records crimes reported through modern slavery referrals.

The force strategic assessment and control strategy lists modern slavery as a priority. The force set up a dedicated modern slavery team in February 2018. This was in response to our modern slavery inspection report, which found that better-performing forces had designated officers or teams to deal with these types of offences. There is strong governance locally and regionally. The chief constable chairs the quarterly threat group and the head of modern slavery is the regional operational lead.

Timeliness

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

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

  • 437 out of 465 reports of violent crime;
  • 201 out of 221 sexual offences; and
  • 371 out of 386 other offences.

Generally, when the force makes correct crime-recording decisions, its processes work well to make sure the crime is recorded within 24 hours, as the rules require. This timely recording means the force can make early referrals to Connect Gwent for those victims in need of support. This is very welcome.

Cancelled crimes

If additional verifiable information (AVI) shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. A recorded crime can also be cancelled when it is found that it was committed in another force area and is subsequently transferred.

We reviewed a sample of cancelled recorded crimes of rape, other sexual offences, violence and robbery.

We found that the FCR had correctly authorised all ten cancelled offences of rape. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • 16 out of 19 sexual offences;
  • 15 out of 20 violence offences; and
  • 5 out of 6 robbery offences.

Eight of the nine incorrect cancellation decisions didn’t involve enough AVI to confirm that the crime did not take place. Two of these decisions also show a misunderstanding of the HOCR schools protocol when making crime cancellation decisions. So further improvement of the way DDMs cancel crimes is needed.

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 the force decided this. We found that, of the 36 victims who the force should have told about the transfer or cancellation, 34 were told of the decision. This is good.

Code of Practice for Victims of Crime

The Code of Practice for Victims of Crime 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.

Connect Gwent is the victims’ hub for all people in the Gwent area. It was set up by the police and crime commissioner in response to a recognised need to prioritise support to crime victims. Connect Gwent is a multi-agency, free and confidential service for anyone impacted by crime. It doesn’t matter whether a victim has reported the crime to the police or when it happened. Connect Gwent offers its services to all crime victims whose reports are recorded by Gwent Police. It will then contact those victims who require support to discuss what support is available to them. Therefore, the recording of reported crime is important to make sure victims are not denied access to these services.

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.

We found that the force routinely records age, gender and ethnicity details when a crime is recorded. But it doesn’t record disability and sexual orientation information, which can only be gathered from the narrative or audio recording of the call when it happens to be disclosed.

If the force fails to collect and 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 Gwent Police about their experience of crime recording. Over 270 respondents took part. We were pleased to find almost all respondents said that the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording and doing the right thing for the victim. The respondents also said that they are aware of their responsibility to challenge unethical behaviour around recording reported crime.

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

graded outstanding

The force has strong, demonstrable leadership around crime-recording expectations and a clear commitment to get crime recording right. We also found that officers and staff place the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.

We found evidence of strong governance at senior level. There is an annual audit plan, regular audits are carried out and the results are reported through regular performance meetings. Crime recording also features on the force risk register.

The FCR regularly attends relevant board meetings when crime-recording compliance is on the agenda. Either the assistant chief constable (ACC) or the deputy chief constable (DCC) chairs these boards.

The DCC has recently reviewed the crime-recording governance arrangements, to make sure they are fit for purpose and robust enough to improve performance. Because of this, crime recording is now part of local and strategic management meetings. This is welcome.

The force has developed a crime-recording action plan. This includes all the causes of concern and areas for improvement listed in the reports we have already published during this inspection programme. This allowed the force to analyse gaps in its processes, and to address some of these gaps before this inspection. This is good practice.

The force has implemented all the recommendations made in our 2014 report, and in the national action plan which the national lead on crime statistics developed following our 2014 report.

Conclusion

Gwent Police has made good progress in its crime recording since 2014 and continues to work on further improvements. The strong leadership and positive approach among most officers and staff towards victims is welcome. It gives us confidence that the force can respond quickly and effectively to the outstanding issues we found in this inspection.

We welcome the force’s continuing efforts to address the remaining gaps in its crime-recording arrangements identified in this inspection.

What next?

We expect the force to make progress against the areas for improvement we make in this report. We will monitor this progress.

As with all forces, we may carry out another unannounced crime data integrity inspection of this force at any time.