Hampshire Constabulary - Crime Data Integrity inspection 2018

Overall judgment

graded requires improvement

Hampshire Constabulary has made a real and concerted effort to record crime more accurately since our 2014 crime data integrity inspection report. We found that this has resulted in very substantial improvement to its overall crime-recording standards and a greater understanding of the importance of these standards among its officers and staff. The force should be congratulated for the improvement it has made. It acknowledges that it has further improvements to make and is fully committed to do so.

The force has:

  • established a gold group to lead improvements in crime recording;
  • developed and provided crime-recording training to officers and staff responsible for making crime-recording decisions;
  • fully implemented most of the recommendations set out in our 2014 report; and
  • fully implemented a national action plan developed to improve crime recording by police forces.

This is very encouraging. Nonetheless, based on our examination of crime reports from 1 February 2018 to 31 July 2018, we estimate that the force fails to record over 15,200 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 91.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.43 percent). The 8.7 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include violence and domestic abuse offences.

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;
  • stalking and harassment;
  • malicious communications;
  • coercive and controlling behaviour; and
  • public order offences.

These errors are made worse by limited supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has improved its crime-recording processes since our 2014 report. We found it has:

  • increased the number of crimes that it records at the first point of contact;
  • introduced a crime and incident management unit (CIMU) which quality assures and validates crime-recording decisions, corrects crime-recording errors and gives feedback to teams and individuals;
  • introduced a structured and proportionate approach to call handling supervision in the contact management centre; and
  • used a variety of initiatives to promote proper crime recording across the force.

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

Despite these advances, the force’s crime recording needs to improve in the following areas:

  • Some incidents which had sufficient information to record a crime immediately were not recorded as crimes.
  • Frontline officers don’t always identify and record some violent crimes, including those arising from domestic abuse incidents like common assault, stalking, harassment, malicious communications and coercive and controlling behaviour.
  • 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.
  • Officers don’t always record rape reports when they should, because in some cases they apply a practice of investigate to record, whereby officers seek to prove or disprove the report before making a crime-recording decision.
  • Not all officers and staff properly understand or use the Home Office classification N100 when they decide not to record a reported rape as a crime.
  • The force must collect more information about the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities, especially groups with protected characteristics like sexuality, disability or religion.

Before our inspection, the force identified through its own crime-recording audits that these areas needed further improvement. As part of the force’s commitment to continuous improvement, it shares these audit findings with the crime data integrity (CDI) gold group and the force performance group. It also shares individual crime-recording errors found during the audits with local CDI specific points of contact (SPOCs) and frontline supervisors. So these errors can be addressed with individual officers. This approach is good practice.

Areas for improvement

The force should immediately:

  • improve supervision of crime-recording decisions on the front line and within the contact management centre;
  • make sure that call handlers always record a crime immediately when sufficient information exists to do so;
  • review its operating arrangements to make sure they secure the recording of all reported rape crimes as soon as sufficient information exists to do so and in any event within 24 hours of receiving the report;
  • make all officers and staff aware of their responsibilities to record reported rape crimes in accordance with the crime-recording rules, and hold them accountable for doing so through its crime and incident management unit and supervisory arrangements;
  • improve its understanding and use of the N100 classification for those reports of rape which it doesn’t immediately record as a crime, and review the necessity for continuing to use its non-Home Office rape incident code;
  • improve the accuracy of its crime cancellation decisions and prevent the cancellation of crime reports by unauthorised personnel;
  • ensure that all victims who should have been told about the transfer or cancellation of their crimes are informed of those decisions; 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

91.3% of reported crimes were recorded

Over 15,200 reports of crime a year are not recorded

The force has further work to do to ensure 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 it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 93.2 percent of crime it records (except fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 93.2 percent of crimes reported to Hampshire Constabulary come through these routes, but that 93.2 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 91.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.43 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording more than 15,200 reports of crime each year.

Of the 1,530 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 340 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 292. The 48 offences not recorded included 38 violent crimes and ten other crimes. Many of these were reported at the first point of contact with the force, but it 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.

From those 48 cases, we found two cases where the force had not:

  • completed a domestic abuse, stalking and harassment risk assessment;
  • recorded any safeguarding actions; or
  • done an investigation.

We found a further 16 of those 48 cases where there was no record on the report of the force considering safeguarding requirements. In seven of these 16, no investigation took place. We also found that the absence of a recorded crime meant that no investigation took place in a further seven of those 48 cases.

The under-recording of crimes related to domestic abuse, and the failure to provide safeguarding and a satisfactory service to some of these victims is an area for improvement. This can be achieved by more effective supervision of crime-recording decisions within the contact management centre and by operational supervisors. In particular, force contact centre supervisors are failing to properly examine all crime-related incidents to satisfy themselves that crime-recording decisions are correct.

Violence against the person

89.9% of reported violent crimes were recorded

Over 6,100 reports of violent crime a year are not recorded

We found that 89.9 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.58 percent). By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 6,100 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:

  • frontline officers, and staff in the force contact centre, don’t always understand basic crime-recording principles or rules about common assault and stalking and harassment;
  • officers and staff don’t always fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to the recording requirements for malicious communications and coercive and controlling behaviour;
  • after a deployment, officers don’t always record a proper explanation for why they didn’t record a crime reported during the initial contact with the force; and
  • there is limited supervision from operational supervisors and within the force contact management centre to correct these decisions at the earliest opportunity.

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 Victim Support. 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 Victim Support. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

91% of reported sex offences were recorded

Over 540 reports of sex offences a year are not recorded

The force records 91 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.10 percent). We estimate that the force is not recording over 540 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

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

However, our audit identified 15 reported sexual offences (excluding rape) which the force had not recorded. These reports included:

  • six sexual assaults;
  • seven offences of sexual activity with a child;
  • one offence of indecent exposure; and
  • one offence of outraging public decency.

In most cases where the force did not record sexual crimes, the reasons were the same as those for violent crime. Additionally, we found that incident records containing multiple sexual offence crime reports often led to only one crime report being recorded. Addressing these issues will help the force to further improve its sexual offence recording standards.

Rape

249 of 287 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 287 reports of rape that should have been recorded. But the force had correctly recorded only 249 of these. Of the unrecorded crimes, we found that:

  • four were incorrectly classified as other crimes; and
  • 34 went completely unrecorded, although the force recorded 19 of these following notification of this inspection and before our audit.

In most cases where the force did not record rape crimes, we found:

  • some officers and staff responsible for recording these crimes did not properly understand the circumstances in which victims cannot give true consent, such as when the victim is pressurised to engage in sexual intercourse or threatened with harm if sexual intercourse is refused;
  • incident records that contained multiple crime reports, victims or offenders often led to only one recorded crime report;
  • when rape crimes were disclosed and recorded on public protection notices or during an existing investigation, they were not recorded as crimes; and
  • limited supervision of crime-recording decisions to make sure they are always correct.

Of the 38 unrecorded reports of rape, we found that the force had investigated 31 of these and provided appropriate safeguarding to the victims. The seven which the force did not investigate included:

  • one case, which the force later followed up, in which the victim could not remember contacting the police;
  • two cases in which the victims would not co-operate in any investigation;
  • two cases in which the victims’ reports were not believed because the victims have mental ill-health and are known to make regular reports of rape;
  • one case in which officers did not believe the victim’s report due to her being drunk at the time of the reported offence; and
  • one case in which the force recorded no justification for not recording the reported rape.

We also found the force had over-recorded one rape. It should have classified this as a sexual assault.

The 19 reports which the force recorded after notification of this inspection and before our audit originated from three separate incidents. The force should and could have created crime records for these at the point of report. We found occasions when the force had opportunities to correct these recording decisions at a much earlier stage. For example, there were opportunities to do so through its initial CIMU process, when cases were referred to its FCR and when cases were reviewed by a supervisory officer. But it wasn’t until after we notified of our inspection that the CIMU conducted a further review of the original reports and the crime records were created.

In these 19 cases the force was safeguarding the victims and investigating the reported crimes. But the failure to record these reports could have compromised the effectiveness of crime analysis about victims, offenders and offence locations.

Additionally, whilst not systemic, it is clear that in these cases and several others we reviewed, some officers and staff take an approach to investigate to record. This is where officers seek to prove or disprove the report before making a crime-recording decision. This is in direct contravention of the general principles of crime-recording and an area for immediate improvement. As we also identified this issue in our 2014 report, it is disappointing that the force has not changed this practice.

The force could also 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 50 reports for which the force should have applied an N100 classification. It only did so on 30 of these occasions.

Separately, we also reviewed 21 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. We found that 13 N100s were correctly recorded. In addition, we found:

  • one report that should have been recorded as a rape but wasn’t;
  • five N100 records which the force had later correctly recorded as a rape; and
  • two unnecessary N100 records.

The use of N100s is not well understood by officers responding to incidents, or by staff in the force contact centre and elsewhere. This causes delays in recording, because some rape reports are initially recorded as non-crime occurrences. The force has also introduced a non-Home Office rape incident code alongside the Home Office N100 classification. This is causing confusion and leading to incorrect crime-recording decisions and reported rapes not always being recorded when they should be. This is an area for improvement.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

34 of 37 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

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

We examined 25 adult and 25 child vulnerable victim records and found the force had recorded 34 out of 37 crimes that should have been recorded.

The three unrecorded crimes all related to adult victims. These included two unrecorded crimes from a single case: one crime of common assault and one crime of coercive and controlling behaviour. The failure to record these crimes resulted in no risk assessment, safeguarding or investigation.

The third unrecorded crime was a common assault from another case. On this occasion the force did give safeguarding advice. But it didn’t complete an investigation because the victim did not wish for any action to be taken.

All three of these unrecorded crimes were domestic abuse-related and were reported by third party professionals (such as social services).

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 found that Hampshire Constabulary has good crime-recording arrangements for modern slavery crime. We checked 21 modern slavery records and found that the force had correctly identified and recorded 13 modern slavery crimes. It had also correctly identified and recorded the following additional crimes:

  • six rapes;
  • one kidnap;
  • two crimes of possessing controlled drugs with intent to supply; and
  • three sexual assaults.

We also examined 21 modern slavery referrals the force received from other organisations. From these we found that the force should have recorded ten modern slavery crimes and had recorded nine. In addition, a crime of administering poison was not recorded. The force also recorded two modern slavery crimes unnecessarily. This was due to a misunderstanding of the crime-recording rules.

The force strategic assessment and control strategy lists modern slavery as a priority. The force has completed a modern slavery problem profile and has a modern slavery strategy. This was in response to our modern slavery inspection report and is good practice.

There is a modern slavery working group that reviews intelligence, crime recording, use of ancillary orders and investigations. There is a modern slavery co-ordinator to bridge the gap between investigations and use of ancillary orders. The modern slavery lead attends a regional threat group which includes representatives from Border Force, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority and the Department of Work and Pensions. It meets quarterly.

Response officers have received modern slavery training. So they have basic knowledge of modern slavery offences and understand their responsibilities for recording such offences, and where they can find further information.

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 Hampshire Constabulary had recorded, it recorded the following number within 24 hours of receiving the report:

  • 414 out of 462 reports of violent crime;
  • 421 out of 454 sexual offences; and
  • 337 out of 409 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 Victim Support for those who require this service. This is very welcome.

Cancelled crimes

If additional verifiable information 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 16 out of 19 cancelled offences of rape. The three incorrect decisions were due to misinterpretation of true consent and intoxication. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated decision makers (DDMs) based in the CIMU. The DDMs had correctly authorised the cancellation of:

  • eight out of 17 sexual offences;
  • 17 out of 19 violence offences; and
  • 12 out of 18 robbery offences.

We found many examples of crimes being cancelled as ‘recorded in error’ when ‘additional verifiable information’ would be more appropriate. This suggests a poor understanding of both types of cancellation.

We recommended in our 2014 report that Hampshire Constabulary address the inaccuracy of its crime cancellation decisions, so these findings are disappointing. The force has a process whereby all crime cancellation requests should be submitted to a DDM to decide whether to cancel the crime. But we found that some officers are not complying with this process and are making crime cancellation decisions themselves. The systems in place should not allow for this to happen. The force needs to improve the accuracy of its crime cancellation decisions. And it should improve its systems to prevent unauthorised personnel from cancelling crime records.

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 34 victims who should have been told of the transfer or cancellation, only 24 were told of the decision. Therefore, this is also an area for improvement.

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.

The Victim Care Service provides support for victims of crime to cope with, and recover from, the harmful effects of the crime they have experienced. The service is funded by the police and crime commissioner and provided by Victim Support.

The Victim Care Service is open to all victims no matter what the type of crime, regardless of whether the crime has been reported to the police or not, and no matter how recently or how long ago the crime took place.

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 capture disability and sexual orientation details. This information can only be gathered from the narrative or audio recording of the call when the victim happens to disclose it.

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 Hampshire Constabulary about their experience of crime recording. Over 1,000 respondents took part. We were pleased to find that the vast majority of respondents said the chief officer team clearly communicates the need for ethical crime recording and doing the right thing for the victim. Additionally, almost all of them said that they understand the crime-recording requirements to a level appropriate for their role.

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

graded good

The force has strong, demonstrable leadership and a very clear commitment to get crime recording right. We also found that officers and staff generally place the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. This has significantly improved the crime-recording standards we found, and means more victims are receiving the service and support they should.

We found evidence of strong governance at senior level. The force formed a CDI gold group, chaired by an assistant chief constable or a chief superintendent, in 2015. Its continuous leadership provides consistent key messages about crime-recording expectations. This has helped the force to make some significant improvements since our 2014 inspection and create a positive crime-recording culture. But it still needs to fully address our 2014 recommendation to stop some officers and staff from apparently investigating to record reported rape crimes.

The force has a comprehensive audit schedule and completes monthly HMICFRS-style audits. These are reported to and discussed at the CDI gold group and the force performance meeting, which the FCR and his deputy attend. Crime recording also features on the force risk register.

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

Conclusion

Hampshire Constabulary has made demonstrable 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.

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 the force at any time.