Lancashire Constabulary: Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2019
Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2019
In July 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted a crime data integrity inspection of Lancashire Constabulary.
We published the report of this inspection in November 2017 and concluded that the force’s crime-recording arrangements were not acceptable. As a result, we gave Lancashire Constabulary an overall judgment of inadequate.
Our 2017 report gave numerous recommendations and areas for improvement aimed at improving crime recording in Lancashire Constabulary. This re-inspection assessed the progress made since that report.
In 2017, we found that the force was good at identifying and recording modern slavery crimes and making crime cancellation decisions for rape and robbery offences. So we have not re-inspected these elements. Instead we used these findings from the original inspection to make an overall comparative judgment in this report.
Our findings and judgment resulting from this re-inspection are 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 findings
- Summary of inspection findings
- How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
- How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
- Crime reports held on other systems
- How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
- What next?
Lancashire Constabulary has made efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy which have led to some improvements since HMICFRS’ 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report.
We found that:
- 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;
- a good level of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences is being achieved; and
- officers and staff work hard to identify any safeguarding needs of the victim and seek to ensure these are provided.
Much work remains to be done, however. The constabulary had made progress with the recommendations for improvement made in our 2014 report but we found that not all of these improvements have been maintained. This regression is undermining the effectiveness and efficiency of its crime-recording arrangements.
Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 October 2016 to 31 March 2016, we estimate that the constabulary fails to record over 20,000 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 84.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). The 15.7 percent of reported crimes that went unrecorded included serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 78.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.16 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 believe 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.
Lancashire Constabulary has significantly improved its crime-recording arrangements since our 2017 inspection. We found it has:
- improved its overall crime recording;
- substantially improved its recording standards for violent crime;
- maintained a good level of recording accuracy for reported sexual offences;
- developed and implemented a crime data integrity (CDI) action plan to address recommendations and areas for improvement and drive systemic cultural change;
- appointed an operational strategic lead responsible for improving crime recording; and
- invested in additional resources to scrutinise and improve crime-recording decision making and data quality.
We examined crime reports from 1 August 2018 to 31 October 2018. Based on our findings, we estimate that the force records 93.3 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent) of crimes reported to it. This compares with our 2017 inspection finding of 84.3 percent (confidence interval +/- 1.86 percent). We estimate that, compared to the findings of our 2017 inspection, this improved accuracy meant that the force recorded an additional 15,200 crimes for the year covered by our re-inspection audit period. So, substantially more victims will now have their reported crimes recorded. Recording these reports makes sure victims have access to the force’s victim support service, Lancashire Victim Services, when they may otherwise not have been referred to it.
The force is determined to get crime recording right, to understand clearly how crime affects its communities and to respond appropriately to this demand.
However, in a few areas the force acknowledges it still has more work to do. It recognises that it still does not record some reports of crime and that it must work to make sure it records:
- all reports of rape;
- crimes associated with domestic abuse; and
- crimes committed against vulnerable people which third party professionals report.
We also found that officers and staff don’t always understand or use the Home Office classification N100 for reports of rape which don’t require a crime record. And the force needs to make sure it informs victims when it decides to cancel their reported crimes.
At the time of our inspection some staff hadn’t completed their crime-recording training. But the force has effective processes in place which should make sure all staff receive this training.
We are confident the force will achieve further progress in these areas. This is due to its sustained commitment to continuous improvement and its proven ability to make improvements since our 2017 inspection.
Summary of findings
Summary of inspection findings
The constabulary has made some improvements in its crime-recording arrangements since our 2014 report. These include progress in:
- implementing 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);
- the accuracy of crime-recording decisions for reported sexual offences (excluding rape); and
- 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
- reports of crime involving vulnerable victims, including those victims of domestic abuse.
The constabulary needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports. HMICFRS recognise that the victims of some of these reports still receive a service; however, the Constabulary needs to work to ensure all victims receive the service to which they are entitled and deserve.
- Crimes reported during incidents involving domestic abuse are sometimes not being recorded.
- 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 victim support service (Lancashire Victim Services), 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. In particular, groups with identifiable protected characteristics (i.e. gender, sexuality or ethnicity).
Some of these failings are a consequence of insufficient progress having been made since our 2014 report. In particular, limited progress has been made to ensure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities, and there is only limited supervision of the crime-recording decisions taken by officers and staff.
We found that the force has committed to improving its processes to make sure it achieves good crime-recording standards. As a result, it has:
- substantially improved its recording of violent crimes;
- introduced call-handling quality assurance processes that include checking compliance with the National Crime Recording Standards;
- implemented Connect, a new system which stores all crime-recording paperwork, makes auditing more efficient and improves management information and data quality;
- established an Incident Management Unit (IMU) to quality assure crime-recording decisions and the records created on Connect;
- established crime management units, which allocate and finalise crimes and authorise crime cancellations, in each of its three basic command units (BCUs); and
- implemented all the recommendations made in our 2017 report.
The chief officer leadership and associated governance arrangements have contributed significantly to these improvements.
Since March 2018, a temporary assistant chief constable (T/ACC) has taken day-to-day responsibility for a crime-recording improvement programme. This is managed through a CDI board which the T/ACC chairs.
Additionally, in October 2018 the deputy chief constable (DCC) launched a force-wide internal campaign called ‘Record for Victims’ (R4V). R4V aims to make sure officers and staff make correct crime-recording decisions, to help victims and make sure they get the support they deserve. The force has since supported this aim through crime-recording briefings and mandatory training for officers and staff responsible for making crime-recording decisions. The R4V approach acts as a thread throughout the briefing and training sessions to make sure victims are always at the forefront of crime-recording arrangements.
The force acknowledges that it took longer than it would have liked to begin its crime-recording improvement programme. This was due to competing demands. Consequently, not all officers and staff have received crime-recording training yet. So some officers and staff still aren’t always sure how to deal with some types of crime, such as:
- common assault;
- malicious communications; and
- crimes committed against vulnerable people which third party professionals report.
We are confident that the force will address these gaps in knowledge once it has given training to all officers and staff.
We note that the force has also been proactive in responding to the results of its own crime-recording audits. It has used these to identify and address procedural problems with its crime-recording arrangements and gaps in understanding of crime-recording rules. This, along with the changes to its arrangements described earlier, has substantially improved its crime-recording accuracy and its service to victims of crime. We commend the force for this.
How effective is the force at recording reported crime?
Overall crime-recording rate
93.3% 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 HMICFRS that all crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route.
We found that the constabulary recorded 84.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.86 percent). We estimate that this means the constabulary is not recording over 20,000 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 1,438 reports of crime that we audited, we found 398 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 398 crimes, the constabulary had recorded 277. The 121 offences not recorded included 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 crimes were not recorded. In addition, on occasions the reported crime was not fully outlined on the incident record made at the time of the report, so the attending officer was unaware of what had been said. Also, some officers believed (wrongly) that if the victim wished for there to be no formal action taken, there was no requirement for a crime to be recorded, even when one had taken place.
However, we found that in these domestic abuse cases, safeguarding had been conducted on nearly every occasion and it was clear that officers and staff fully understood their responsibilities in this respect. In some cases officers also took positive action in line with the victim’s wishes despite not recording the crime.
The under-recording of crimes related to domestic abuse and the consequent absence of understanding of the full extent of domestic abuse crime by the constabulary 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 attendance of an officer or during subsequent investigation, the constabulary does not always record these crimes;
- incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result incorrectly in only one crime report being recorded; and
- a software programme called the staging database, intended to ensure that reports of crime which had not been recorded within 24 hours were automatically recorded has become unreliable, wrongly classifying many of the crimes which it records. This has placed added pressure on the data audit unit (DAU), responsible for ensuring that crimes are correctly classified.
We found that call-handlers (who receive reports of crime by telephone), and frontline officers and staff, 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 officers and staff were unsure of the crime-recording rules regarding common assault where there is no physical assault but the threat of one; and
- at the point of report, on occasion, when assessing whether on the balance of probability an offence has been committed, insufficient emphasis has been given to the initial account of the victim.
We also found that supervision of its crime-recording decisions requires improvement. This is because:
- call-handling supervisors do not routinely include a check of crime-recording decisions during dip-sampling of call handler work;
- the force crime registrar (FCR) and the DAU have limited capacity to conduct auditing in connection with crime recording, particularly within some of the risk areas such as reports of crime involving vulnerable victims and victims of domestic abuse; and
- the constabulary believes rightly that officers and staff should be relied upon to perform their duties to a good standard and, therefore, do not require their crime-recording decisions scrutinised. However, this absence of supervision is further compounded by limited audit of crime-recording decisions and this lack of intervention at any stage means that no corrective action is taken, nor can any training or development needs be identified and managed.
We note, in concluding this section, that before this inspection, and following intervention from the FCR, the constabulary had started changing its crime-recording arrangements. In particular, it plans to increase the number of staff working within the DAU and has trained call-handling staff to make crime-recording decisions and create the subsequent crime records. However, we also note that this latter arrangement was suspended due to call-handling demand, and in order to reinstate this approach and better manage demand the constabulary has recently conducted a recruitment campaign to increase control room staffing.
In addition, the constabulary has determined that it will place the crime-recording decision at the point of contact with the victim, and to this end is trialling a process whereby initial investigation unit staff will work in the control room. These staff are recording crime directly upon receipt of the report, and providing crime-recording advice to staff. HMICFRS welcomes these developments.
The force 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 the force received, and for which an auditable record was created. The force informed us that 99 percent of crime that is recorded (except fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 99 percent of crimes reported to Lancashire Constabulary come through these routes, but that 99 percent of crime is recorded this way.
We found that the force recorded 93.3 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.48 percent). We estimate that this means the force is recording an additional 15,200 reported crimes each year because of its improved crime-recording arrangements. This is a significant improvement.
Of a total of 1,093 reports of crime that we audited, we assessed 349 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 308. In the 41 cases where it had not recorded crimes, safeguarding was provided in all relevant cases.
We found that 36 of these cases involved violence offences, including:
- common assaults;
- harassment; and
- malicious communications.
In 12 cases, failing to record crimes meant that no investigation was done.
In 2017, we found that some officers believed (wrongly) that they weren’t required to record crimes if the victim didn’t want any formal action taken. We were disappointed to find six domestic abuse cases where this was still happening.
It is important that the force continues to work to improve crime recording in domestic abuse incidents. This will allow it to understand fully how domestic abuse affects its communities, and help victims reporting these crimes to have confidence in its response.
Violence against the person
90% of reported violent crimes were recorded
We found that 78.3 percent of violent crimes reported to the constabulary are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.16 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above. By our estimate, this means the constabulary fails to record over 8,500 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. Where violent crimes are not recorded, a high proportion of these relate to domestic abuse crimes (see above). We therefore find the under-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 fully understanding the crime-recording rules, particularly for 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 Lancashire Victim Services. Under those circumstances, crime recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Lancashire Victim Services receiving no notification that a person has become a victim of violent crime. That in turn, deprives victims of the support they may need and deserve.
We found that 90 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.50 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate above. We estimate that, compared to the findings of our 2017 inspection, the force is now recording an additional 7,630 reported violence crimes each year. Again, this is a significant improvement.
The 10 percent of violent crimes that go unrecorded include offences such as harassment, malicious communications and common assault. Many of these were reported directly to the force. But it didn’t record them as crimes. In most cases where the force still doesn’t record violent crimes, the principal causes were:
- changes made in 2018 to the recording requirements for stalking, harassment and controlling or coercive behaviour, which officers and staff didn’t always fully understand and apply; and
- failing to record all crimes reported in incidents involving more than one crime.
95.2% of reported sex offences were recorded
We found that the constabulary records 93.6 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.44 percent). We estimate that this means the constabulary fails to record over 220 reported sexual offence crimes each year.
This recording rate is encouraging and better than many forces that we have inspected to date. Nevertheless, the need to record all sexual offences is important given the very serious nature of sexual offences and the harm they cause to their victims. We found that the constabulary failed to record some reports of sexual assault against both adults and children.
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; and
- an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
The force records 95.2 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.14 percent). This is a very good achievement. We estimate that, compared to the findings of our 2017 inspection, the force is now recording an additional 80 reported sexual offence crimes each year.
Recording sexual offence crimes is particularly important for victims, as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm. So this recording standard is welcome.
We note that the force failed to record a small number of reported sexual offences. These included sexual assaults against adults and children, incitement to sexual activity and one offence of sexual activity with a child. The reasons for these failings are as described above.
106 of 114 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 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 that although a crime may not always have been correctly recorded, Lancashire Constabulary provided support and safeguarding in all of these cases, including referrals to partner organisations when appropriate, and carried out an investigation in all.
In Lancashire Constabulary we found 124 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 114 of these had been recorded. These include reports that originated on the constabulary incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals, and from a review of N100 classifications.
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.
The constabulary operates a process whereby it creates a classification N100 at the outset in respect of every report of rape. These are overseen by the FCR and DAU and are generally assessed and then, if deemed appropriate, converted into recorded crimes of rape. This is not an efficient process and relies upon the FCR and DAU always having time to complete this task. It also has a negative impact upon the timeliness of the recording of reports of rape.
The causes of the under-recording of the ten rape crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of other 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; and
- an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.
There are, in addition, some issues surrounding the constabulary’s use of the Home Office classification N100.
We found 14 incident reports for which an N100 classification should have been applied but it was only applied on eight occasions.
Separately, we also reviewed 20 sample records where an N100 classification had been used. We found that 14 were completed to a good standard, three should never have been recorded from the outset and three had been correctly changed to crimes of rape by the FCR and her team.
Because the process for creating an N100 rests with the IIU, we found little understanding among officers and staff in relation to the need for an N100 and the difference between these and a recorded crime of rape.
The force must further improve its recording standards for rape. This is important as rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience. Accurate recording 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.
We found that 114 reports of rape should have been recorded but the force had recorded 106. Of the eight unrecorded reports:
- two were misclassified as sexual assaults;
- two were incorrectly classified as N100s (see below); and
- four were not recorded at all.
The force had safeguarded the victims of all these unrecorded crimes. But in two of these cases there was no investigation.
Where forces don’t record a reported rape as a crime, they must apply a Home Office classification N100. In 2017, we found that the force was generating N100 records for every rape report which it hadn’t recorded as a crime within 24 hours. The force crime registrar (FCR) and data audit unit (DAU) then had to assess these cases and, if appropriate, convert them into recorded rape crimes. So we found that this system was inefficient.
The force is still using this process. And we found several cases where it had enough information to record a rape crime from the outset, but hadn’t done so. We found no clear evidence or explanation as to why.
We checked 22 N100 records. Two of these were found to contain the same circumstances as other records, leaving 20 records. Of these:
- five were later correctly converted into recorded crimes of rape;
- one should have been recorded as a rape at the outset but remained incorrectly classified as an N100; and
- one should have been reclassified to an assault crime;
The remaining 13 were correctly recorded.
Separately, we also reviewed 24 sample records where the force should have used an N100 classification. But it only did so in 12 of these.
We found that staff and officers still had very little awareness of the N100 classification. This is disappointing as we highlighted this matter as an area for improvement in our 2017 report. The force must continue to work to improve officer and staff understanding of N100s and make sure this classification is correctly used.
How efficiently do the systems and processes in the force support accurate crime recording?
Crime reports held on other systems
23 of 30 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded
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 found that the force had only recorded 18 crimes from 31 vulnerable victim reports of crime. This came from an examination of 50 vulnerable victim records, and ten referrals received by email into the multi-agency referral units from third party professionals (such as health professionals and social services). The missing 13 crimes included offences against children and adults.
The causes of the under-recording of these 13 crimes are the same as were identified above in respect of sexual offences and violence. As a result of HMICFRS’ audit, the constabulary will introduce crime-recording training into regular continuous professional development days which are held for all public protection team staff. 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.
We found that the force has made some progress to ensure that it records crimes reported directly to its public protection teams. Recording these crimes is important. It means the force can be confident that vulnerable victims receive the support they need.
We examined 50 vulnerable victim records. We found that these contained 24 reports of crimes which the force should have recorded, and it had recorded 18 of these. The six missed crimes all related to adult victims. These included:
- three common assaults;
- one modern slavery offence;
- one crime of controlling and coercive behaviour; and
- one theft.
All these cases were professional third-party reports and should have been recorded as soon as they were reported.
In addition, we examined 20 email referrals which the force control room received and found that six crimes should have been recorded. Of these, five had been. The missed crime was a professional third-party report of common assault that the force should have recorded as soon as it was reported.
We found the force had provided sufficient safeguarding to victims of all seven of the unrecorded crimes mentioned above. And it had investigated all cases where the victim provided co-operation.
These crimes weren’t recorded because officers and staff in the safeguarding teams and multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) hadn’t yet completed the mandatory crime-recording training. So they don’t fully understand their crime-recording responsibilities, particularly the rules about recording crimes reported by third party professionals.
The HOCR require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report. We found that, of the reports of crime that had been recorded by Lancashire Constabulary, 55 out of 114 reports of rape, 451 out of 498 reports of violent crime and 233 out of 292 sexual offences (excluding rape) had been recorded within 24 hours of the receipt of the report.
While some victims may be referred to support agencies by other means, the delay in recording a reported crime can delay the referral of the victim to Lancashire Victim Services. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can provide, these delays are unacceptable.
Read the full 2017 report
If the information the force gets at the first point of contact satisfies the national crime recording standard, it should record crimes straight away, and in any case within 24 hours.
Since our 2017 report Lancashire Constabulary has improved the proportion of crimes that it records within 24 hours. We found it did so for:
- 448 out of 478 violent crimes;
- 251 out of 260 sexual offences; and
- 235 out of 247 other offences.
So generally, when the force makes correct crime-recording decisions, its procedures now ensure it records the crime within 24 hours. This timely recording enables it to make early referrals to Lancashire Victim Services for those victims in need of support. This is very welcome.
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 performed well.
We reviewed 20 cancelled recorded crimes each of rape, violence, sexual offence crimes (excluding rape) and robbery crimes. Of these, we found that the FCR had correctly cancelled all 20 crimes of rape. Other crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of three designated staff, known as designated decision makers (DDMs). The DDMs had correctly cancelled 19 out of 20 sexual offences, 19 out of 20 violence offences and all 20 robbery offences. This is very good.
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. We found that of the 42 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 34 had been. This is an area for improvement.
If additional verifiable information shows that a recorded crime didn’t take place, the record can be cancelled. In this respect we found that the force performed well.
We reviewed 20 cancelled crimes each of violence and sexual offences. Designated decision makers (DDMs) make crime cancellation decisions and we found that they had correctly cancelled:
- 19 out of 20 violent crimes; and
- 19 out of 20 sexual offence crimes.
This is a good standard.
Of the 15 victims the force should have told about its decision to cancel their crime, it had informed only nine. In some cases, there was no auditable record confirming that it had informed the victims. As we highlighted this issue as needing improvement in our 2017 inspection, this is disappointing. However, the new Connect crime-recording system contains safeguards to make sure victims are updated when the force makes such decisions. So we are confident that this problem will improve. This is welcome.
HMICFRS 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 the constabulary only records basic equality information in relation to the victim such as age and gender.
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 is, therefore, an area for improvement.
The force has not improved its collection of information about the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities. As this was an area for improvement in 2017, this is disappointing.
The force had an ideal opportunity to mandate collection of this data when it introduced its new crime-recording system. But it didn’t act on this. However, we are confident that the force understands the need to address this problem. It is now working to introduce mandatory fields for collecting equality data into its new crime-recording system. This is encouraging.
How well does the force demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?
The leadership effort that Lancashire Constabulary has put toward improving crime recording has been pivotal to the improvements we found in this inspection.
The force has embarked on a programme of work intended to achieve a cultural change. It intends to make officers and staff fully understand the need to record crime reports so victims get the service they need and deserve. The R4V campaign is at the heart of this transition.
The DCC has overall responsibility for crime recording. She has delegated day-to-day responsibility for the crime-recording improvement programme to a T/ACC.
We found strong governance and oversight of crime-recording arrangements. The DCC chairs a quarterly legitimacy and effectiveness board at which the T/ACC reports on crime-recording issues. The T/ACC also chairs a monthly CDI board. Senior sponsors within each BCU further support these arrangements.
The force has a CDI action plan which addresses all the recommendations and areas for improvement from our 2017 report. We are pleased that the force has fully implemented all but one of these recommendations. It is still working on the final outstanding recommendation as it seeks to complete its crime-recording training programme.
However, we found some officers and staff were reluctant to submit crimes for cancellation or reclassification. It is important that officers and staff fully understand their responsibilities around these processes. Not following them means the force has less accurate data to manage and respond to demand, make resourcing decisions, and submit to the Home Office.
Most officers and staff placed the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions. However, we were concerned that some officers and staff believe they are recording crimes only to satisfy crime-recording rules or for the Home Office. This shows they don’t fully understand that not recording crimes affects the service to victims, or that victims should be at the forefront of these decisions. The force must satisfy itself that it has addressed these perceptions.
Since our 2017 inspection Lancashire Constabulary has made significant progress in its crime-recording standards. This is welcome.
We are confident that the force’s ongoing improvement programme and effective leadership will address those areas that require further attention.
We welcome the steps taken by Lancashire Constabulary to improve its crime-recording arrangements. We expect the force to continue to make further progress and to build on the improvements made so far. We will continue to monitor progress.
The force, as with all police forces, may be subject to a further unannounced crime data integrity inspection at any time.