Thames Valley Police: Crime Data Integrity re-inspection 2019

In November 2017, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) conducted a crime data integrity inspection of Thames Valley Police.

We published the report of this inspection in February 2018 and concluded that the force’s crime recording arrangements were not acceptable. As a result, we gave Thames Valley Police an overall judgment of inadequate.

Our 2018 report gave numerous recommendations and areas for improvement aimed at improving crime recording in Thames Valley Police. This re-inspection, completed in May 2019, assessed the progress made since that report.

Our findings and judgment resulting from this re-inspection are set out below.

Overall judgment

graded inadequate

Thames Valley Police has made efforts to improve crime-recording accuracy which have led to some improvements since HMICFRS’s 2014 Crime Data Integrity inspection report. Importantly, we found a commitment to ethical crime recording that is victim-focused and free from performance pressures of any kind.

We found that the force:

  • has improved its use, supervision and scrutiny of out-of-court disposals;
  • records all modern slavery offences reported to it and disclosed during investigations; and
  • makes good decisions when considering whether or not to cancel a recorded crime.

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

Based on the findings of our examination of crime reports for the period 1 February 2017 to 31 July 2017, we estimate that the force fails to record over 35,200 reported crimes each year. This represents a recording rate of 80.4 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.75 percent). The 19.6 percent of reported crimes that go unrecorded include serious crimes such as sexual offences, domestic abuse and rape. The recording rate for violent crime is a particular cause of concern at only 69.2 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.35 percent). This means that on too many occasions, the force is potentially failing victims of crime.

Immediate improvements must be made. In particular, we consider that there are too many missed opportunities for crime-recording decisions to be taken at an earlier stage and too often this leads to reported crimes not being recorded at all. These failures are due to poor crime-recording processes and an insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements by officers and staff. They are, in addition, underpinned by inadequate supervision by the force of crime-recording decisions.

Read the full 2017 report

graded inadequate

From its low base Thames Valley Police has improved its crime recording arrangements since our 2017 crime data integrity (CDI) inspection. However, we found it still needs to do more.

The most significant change that it has made is to implement crime recording at the first point of contact in its contact management centre.

It has also:

  • improved its overall crime recording, including of violence and sexual offences;
  • significantly increased how often it records crime reports at the first point of contact;
  • developed and implemented a CDI delivery plan; and
  • provided comprehensive crime recording training to call handling staff in its contact management centre.

The force is determined to get crime recording right. But despite its new approach, it needs to achieve higher recording standards. To do this it should make sure it trains all staff in the contact management centre, including dispatchers, in crime recording. Failure to do this is limiting the accuracy of those recording decisions made at the point of contact.

We examined crime reports from 1 October to 31 December 2018. Based on this, we estimate that the force records 87.9 percent of crimes reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.70 percent). This is a statistically significant improvement of 7.5 percentage points when compared to our 2017 inspection finding of 80.4 percent (confidence interval +/- 1.75 percent).

We estimate that, compared to the findings of our 2017 inspection, this improved accuracy meant that the force recorded an additional 13,800 crimes for the year covered by our re-inspection audit period. So, more victims will now have their reported crimes recorded. Recording these reports makes sure victims have access to the victim support service Victims First when they may otherwise not have been referred to it.

But despite these improvements, the overall recording rate and the recording rate for violent crime are still too low.

Supervision of the crime recording process and decisions remains inconsistent. And there are still not enough safeguards in place to make sure reported crimes are recorded.

Also, since our last inspection the force has got worse at:

  • using classification N100 for rape reports it decides not to record as crimes;
  • making decisions when cancelling recorded offences; and
  • informing victims of its decision to cancel their crime.

Summary of inspection findings

The force has made some improvements since our 2014 report. These include progress in:

  • creating a team dedicated to undertaking crime-recording audits;
  • changing its diary appointment system for victims of crime, which it intends will improve the service for those victims whose reports do not require an urgent response;
  • providing comprehensive crime-recording training to its contact management staff; and
  • developing an understanding of modern day slavery offences among officers and staff.

We also found that the force crime registrar (FCR) – responsible for oversight and audit of crime-recording requirements – has completed a national College of Policing course for FCRs and is fully accredited for the role. The FCR is supported by a deputy FCR, assistant crime registrars (ACRs) and an audit team.

Despite these advances, the force’s performance in respect of crime recording is unacceptable in the following areas:

  • The force is currently under-recording too many reports of crime, including:
    • violent crimes (in particular offences of common assault, harassment and malicious communications);
    • reports of rape;
    • reports of crime involving vulnerable victims, including those victims of domestic abuse; and
    • public order crimes.
  • for the purpose of crime recording, officers and staff do not always believe reports of crime received from victims whom they believe are suffering from mental health issues.

The force needs to act promptly to improve the accuracy of its recording of these reports and to provide all victims with the service to which they are entitled and deserve.

  • Frontline officers, including supervisors, have a poor level of understanding of how the NICHE crime-recording system works. The force relies on this system to accurately record crime and assess crime demand and yet officers clearly do not understand how crimes are created and what entries on NICHE constitute crimes.
  • Officers and supervisors who work outside the contact management centre have a poor understanding of the National Crime Recording Standards (NCRS) and have not received sufficient crime-recording training.
  • Reports of crime received into the contact management centre are not always fully outlined on the incident record made at the time of the report, so the attending officer does not always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision.
  • Crimes reported during incidents involving domestic abuse are not always being recorded.
  • Incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection teams, in particular those reported by professional third parties, 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 force’s victim support service (Victims First), letting down those victims who need the early support this team can provide.
  • The force must improve the extent to which it collects information regarding the effect of criminality on identifiable groups within communities.

Some of these failings are a consequence of insufficient progress having been made to deal with deficiencies identified within our 2014 report. In particular, limited progress has been made to ensure officers and staff understand their crime-recording responsibilities. They are, in addition, underpinned by inadequate supervision by the force of crime-recording decisions.

Causes of concern and areas for improvement

In 2017, we identified several causes of concern and areas for improvement. You can view these in the full version of the 2017 report.

Read the full 2017 report

The force has made some progress with its crime recording arrangements since our 2017 inspection. It has:

  • identified gaps in its systems and processes for recording crime reports arising from domestic incidents and public protection referrals;
  • made changes to address these gaps;
  • introduced a process where contact management staff review the domestic abuse and vulnerable victim reports from the previous day to make sure all crimes have been recorded;
  • implemented a supervisory review process and started to brief frontline supervisors on their crime recording responsibilities; and
  • issued operational crime recording guidance for officers and staff responsible for making crime recording decisions.

However, at the time of our inspection these changes had not yet created the improvement required to achieve accurate crime recording.

The force still needs to address various issues.

  • Frontline officers, including supervisors, have a poor understanding of the force’s crime recording system (NICHE). The force relies on NICHE to record crime and assess demand. But officers and supervisors clearly still do not understand how crime records are created and what entries constitute recorded crimes.
  • Officers and supervisors who work outside the contact management centre have a poor understanding of the national crime recording standards (NCRS). They have not received crime recording training.
  • Incidents which have been disclosed directly to public protection teams, in particular those reported by professional third parties, and which amount to a crime in law, are not always recorded as such.
  • Officers and staff are still failing to correctly identify and record domestic abuse and rape crimes.

The force has failed to make sure officers and staff fully understand and apply changes made in April 2018 to crime recording requirements for stalking, harassment and coercive and controlling behaviour. Together with common assault, these crime types made up the vast majority of missed domestic abuse crimes.

We were encouraged to find that the force has been conducting its own crime recording audits, which have already identified some of the failings described in this report. These include some of the reasons why officers and staff fail to record reported crimes and some of the procedural problems that may affect crime recording accuracy.

The force reports the results of these audits to its CDI strategic and tactical working groups. And it shares them with department leads so that they can give feedback to officers and staff. This is good practice, but the force needs to do more to make sure these feedback processes are working effectively.

The force created a CDI delivery plan to address the recommendations and areas for improvement in our previous inspection report. This plan is comprehensive and the force has started to implement the vast majority of these actions. However, the pace of implementation needs to be accelerated as much remains to be done.

How effective is the force at recording reported crime?

graded inadequate

Overall crime recording rate

87.9% of reported crimes
were recorded

The force has considerable work to do in order 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 an auditable record was created. The force informed HMICFRS that 96.5 percent of all crime that is recorded (excluding fraud) came through an auditable crime reporting route.

We found that the force recorded 80.4 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.75 percent). We estimate that this means the force is not recording over 35,200 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 1,970 reports of crime that we audited, we found 509 that we assessed to be crimes related to domestic abuse. Of these 509 crimes, the force had recorded 314. The 195 offences not recorded included offences of violence, crimes involving harassment and malicious communications, public order and sexual offences.

We found that on nearly every occasion the force had correctly identified at the outset of reported domestic abuse case that it was dealing with a domestic abuse report. Many of these reports involved the reporting of a crime at the first point of contact, but these crimes were not recorded. In addition, we found that on occasions the reported crime was not fully outlined on the incident record made at the time of the report, so the attending officer did not always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision.

Failure to record these crimes resulted in:

  • those victims not being provided with the service to which they are entitled and deserve; and
  • no subsequent investigation being carried out, thereby increasing the potential risk of harm to the victims.

The force must introduce an effective system of supervision of incident-related crime-recording decisions.

However, we found that in these domestic abuse cases, while call takers had documented on the vast majority of incident logs the proper regard to safeguarding, on occasion, officers did not always record what actions they had taken to safeguard victims once they had attended and spoken to them. We also found that where the force had failed to record domestic abuse crimes no subsequent investigation was conducted.

The absence of understanding of the full extent of domestic abuse crime, the under-recording of crimes related to domestic incidents, and the failure to provide a satisfactory service to these victims are a serious concern. This is because domestic abuse often involves victims who are particularly vulnerable to further offences being committed against them.

Factors contributing to the force’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 force’s crime-recording processes are a concern. In particular, we found that:

  • some call handlers do not always record on the incident log full details of the conversation they have had with the person reporting a crime. This means the attending officer does not always have the full information on which to base a crime-recording decision;
  • when officers are required to make crime-recording decisions they do not always make the correct decision, or provide sufficient information to explain why a crime record is not required;
  • frontline officers, including supervisors, have a poor understanding of how the NICHE crime-recording system works;
  • when further offences come to light after the initial attendance of an officer or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record those additional crimes; and
  • incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result incorrectly in only one crime report being recorded.

We found that 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, harassment and public order 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;
  • the crime-recording rules concerning the recording of third party professional reports of crime are not fully understood; and
  • for the purpose of crime recording, officers and staff do not always believe reports of crime received from victims whom they believe are suffering from mental health issues.

We also found that the force’s supervision of its crime-recording decisions requires improvement. This is because:

  • there is little evidence of active supervision of the quality of the log entries or of the decisions being made by officers regarding whether or not to record a crime;
  • too often crime-recording decisions are wrong, and are not challenged in any way; and
  • this lack of intervention 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 the force had already identified several of the deficiencies we found in its crime-recording processes through its own internal audits. And, in response to our findings, the force has set up a gold group chaired by the deputy chief constable and has developed a plan to address them.

Read the full 2017 report

The force has made some progress with its processes, ensuring it now records more reports of crime in accordance with the Home Office Counting Rules (PDF document) (HOCR). We examined reports of crime the force received, and for which it had created an auditable record. The force told us that 90.6 percent of crime it records (except fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 90.6 percent of crimes reported to Thames Valley Police come through these routes, but that 90.6 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the force recorded 87.9 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 1.70 percent). We estimate that this means the force is recording an additional 13,800 reported crimes each year compared to our findings in 2017. This is a statistically significant improvement of 7.5 percentage points. But it falls short of what is needed.

Of the 1,419 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 379 as related to domestic abuse. Of these, the force had recorded 289. Of the 90 offences not recorded, 80 were violence offences, including:

  • common assault;
  • stalking;
  • harassment;
  • malicious communications; and
  • coercive and controlling behaviour.

Many of these were reported directly to the force. But the force didn’t record them as crimes, and we found no clear evidence or explanation as to why. We also found occasions where some call handlers didn’t record on the incident log full details of the conversation they had with the person reporting a crime. This means the attending officer doesn’t always have the full information on which to base a crime recording decision.

Case study

A report was made of domestic abuse, amounting to an offence of controlling and coercive behaviour. The victim was a repeat victim of domestic abuse. She was reporting that she was being subject to a forced marriage. To facilitate this, relatives were controlling all aspects of her life including travel and access to documents. The victim was extremely distressed by this behaviour and had attempted suicide the previous day. Police did not attend. Nor did they record any offences or provide information to suggest a crime did not occur. The force did not identify safeguarding opportunities or carry out an investigation.

The force considered safeguarding requirements in most of the unrecorded cases. But it carried out a proportionate investigation in only 11 of them.

We are still concerned that the force is under-recording crimes relating to domestic abuse incidents. It is failing to give many of these victims a satisfactory service.

Violence against the person

79.4% of reported violent crimes
were recorded


We found that 69.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.35 percent). This is lower than the overall crime-recording rate noted above and one of the worst recording rates for violent crime we have found so far in this inspection programme. By our estimate, this means the force fails to record over 13,900 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 under-recording of reports of violent crime by the force to be a serious concern.

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

  • the processes currently in place for the recording of a reported crime (described earlier);
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules, particularly around the complexities of some violence offences such as harassment, malicious communications and the more straightforward offence of common assault. This results in the failure to record many such reports of crime; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

Victims of violent crime and, in particular, victims of more serious violence, often require substantial support. This support should come not only from the reporting and investigating officers, but also, possibly, from Victims First. Under those circumstances, crime recording takes on a heightened importance. Failing to record properly a violent crime can result in Victims First 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.

Read the full 2017 report

We found that 79.4 percent of violent crimes reported to the force are recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.17 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 5,940 reported violence crimes each year. This is a statistically significant improvement of 10.2 percentage points, but the force is still failing many victims of violent crime. As violent crime can be particularly distressing for the victim, and many of these crimes involve injury, the need for improvement in this area is particularly acute and remains a concern.

When the force doesn’t record a violent crime, the principal causes are:

  • misunderstanding of the crime recording rules about some violence offences such as stalking, harassment, malicious communications, coercive and controlling behaviour and common assault;
  • failing to record multiple crimes in accordance with the HOCR;
  • failing to record additional crimes disclosed by victims on domestic abuse risk assessment forms; and
  • inconsistent supervision of the crime recording process and decisions, with inadequate safeguards to make sure it records most crimes correctly.

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 Victims First. 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 Victims First. This deprives victims of the support they need and deserve.

Sexual offences

95.3% of reported sex offences were recorded

The force’s recording of reports of sexual offences (including rape) is a cause of concern. We found that the force records 90.2 percent of sexual offence crimes that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.48 percent). We estimate that this means the force fails to record over 490 reported sexual offence crimes each year.

Those 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 some reports of sexual assault, digital penetration, inciting a child to commit a sexual act, sexual activity with a child, engaging in a sexual act in the presence of a child under 16, exposure and outraging public decency.

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.

Sexual offence victims require significant support from the outset. The failure to record such crimes, to provide appropriate support to the victim, or any delay in attendance or investigation will often result in a lack of confidence in the police and reluctance on behalf of the victim to engage in subsequent stages of the criminal justice system. The force must improve its performance in this respect.

Read the full 2017 report

The force records 95.3 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) that are reported to it (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.03 percent). Compared to the findings of our 2017 inspection, we estimate the force has recorded an additional 280 reported sexual offence crimes in the past year. This is a statistically significant improvement of 5.1 percentage points. These crimes may otherwise have gone unrecorded. This improvement is welcome.

The reported sexual offence crimes that were not recorded included two sexual assaults, one exposure and a variety of five sexual offences against children.

The main cause of this under-recording is failure to record multiple crimes in accordance with the HOCR (PDF document).

Recording sexual offence crimes is particularly important for victims, as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm.

Rape

126 of 138 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious sexual offence crimes a victim can experience. Therefore, the accurate recording of such reports is especially important. It helps to ensure victims receive the service they have a right to expect and deserve, and it allows the police to identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area. In turn, this enables the police to operate with the highest practicable levels of efficiency to identify and deal effectively with perpetrators.

In Thames Valley Police we found 174 reports of rape that should have been recorded, but only 152 of these had been accurately recorded. This is a further cause of concern.

The unrecorded crimes of rape include reports that originated on the force incident system, reports received directly by specialist officers from third party professionals, and from a review of N100 classifications (see below). Of the 22 that were not recorded 7 were misclassified and recorded as something else, e.g. sexual assault, 6 were occasions where the force had failed to record crimes in respect of second or additional perpetrators, and 9 had not been recorded at all.

From an examination of the incident records that the force did create we were able to establish that no investigation took place in the 9 cases where no rape crime was recorded. Four of these were because victims refused to engage with the police; two were cases where the victims had mental health issues, one was transferred to another force for investigation and one was because the victim primarily contacted the police for safeguarding advice. In the remaining case the officer’s understanding about consent in rape crimes was lacking, which led to this offence not being recorded or investigated. This underpins the importance of the correct recording of reported crime and is wholly unacceptable.

We did find that in all of the cases safeguarding was provided to victims, and this included referrals to partner organisations where appropriate.

The causes of the under-recording of the 22 rape crimes are:

  • unwarranted failures to record the crimes;
  • officers failing to record multiple reports of crimes;
  • officers and staff not understanding adequately the crime-recording rules; and
  • an absence of adequate supervision of crime-recording decisions.

The force must look at how it manages the recording and investigation of offences of rape to ensure it has a clear picture of demand and offending behaviour, and is able to satisfy itself that the service and support the victims of rape have a right to expect is always provided.

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 there is credible evidence to the contrary immediately available, or where the rape occurred in another force area and was therefore transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found three incident reports for which an N100 classification was correctly applied and then upgraded to a full crime once confirmation from the victims had been received.

Separately, we examined 20 N100s and found that 16 were correctly recorded. The remaining four were correctly upgraded to rapes (of which two should have been recorded as rapes from the outset) and one should have been turned into a rape but was not. We also found three N100s which were over recorded, for instance as well as a rape crime.

Because the contact management centre is responsible for creating an N100, we found little understanding among officers and staff of the need for an N100 and the difference between an N100 and a recorded crime of rape. It is important that the force improves the understanding of N100 classifications among officers and staff if it is to fully satisfy itself that the correct recording decisions are always taken in regard to reports of rape.

As with other sexual offences, the recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can be detrimental to both the recovery of the victim and to any investigation. This, in turn, can negatively influence future judicial proceedings.

Read the full 2017 report

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.

Since our 2017 inspection, the force has not noticeably changed or improved how it records reports of rape.

We found that 126 of 138 rape crimes had been correctly recorded. Of the 12 unrecorded reports:

  • five were misclassified as other offences; and
  • seven were not recorded at all.

The force considered safeguarding requirements for all victims. But in three cases, failing to record the rape crimes meant it didn’t conduct a full investigation into the reports. This let down those victims.

When forces don’t record a reported rape as a crime, they must apply a Home Office classification N100.

In 2017, we found that the standard of N100 recording was exceptionally good. But in this audit, we found that there was general confusion in making these decisions. Staff in the contact management centre don’t understand whether or when to record a rape or a classification N100.

We checked 20 N100 records. Of these:

  • three records, containing five rape reports, should have been recorded as rapes at the outset, but were only later recorded as crimes;
  • one should not have been recorded as a N100 at all; and
  • one record should have had an additional three N100s recorded as well.

The remaining N100 records were recorded correctly.

Separately, we also identified 31 other occasions where the force should have used an N100 classification. But it only did so in 23 of these.

We found that frontline officers and staff still had very little awareness of the N100 classification. Again, this is disappointing as we highlighted this matter as an area for improvement following our 2017 inspection. The force has introduced a review process for N100s. But more needs to be done to improve understanding among officers and staff to make sure it uses this classification correctly.

It is essential to record a rape report correctly as a crime as soon as possible. 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. It remains a concern that the force is still under-recording rape crimes and failing to give many of these victims a satisfactory service.

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

graded requires improvement

Crime reports held on other systems

4 of 7 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

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

We examined 53 vulnerable victim records. Of these, we found that 20 crimes should have been recorded, of which nine had been. The missing 11 crimes included offences against children and adults.

While safeguarding was completed in all of these cases, investigations were not carried out in seven of these 11 cases because the victims declined to support an investigation. Three of the crimes were investigated but not recorded and the remaining crime was not investigated at all. The failure to record these crimes is of serious concern given the vulnerability of the victims.

The extent to which reports of crime received by public protection teams are not being recorded, and the seriousness of the risks associated with the under-recording of these reports of crime, are causes of concern.

Read the full 2017 report

To be confident that vulnerable victims always get the support they need, it is important that crimes reported directly to public protection teams are always recorded.

To make sure it does so, the force has changed its procedures for recording crimes reported in this way. It now records all such reports in the contact management centre, to try to make sure it records every reported crime. It has also introduced a daily system of checking vulnerable victim records for missed crimes. Despite these new arrangements, the force still doesn’t record all such crimes.

We examined 22 vulnerable adult victim records. Unusually, there were no crime reports in them. We also examined 25 vulnerable child records in which we found seven crimes that should have been recorded. But the force had only recorded four. The unrecorded offences included:

  • sexual activity with a child under 13;
  • assault occasioning actual bodily harm; and
  • injury caused by a dangerous dog.

All these cases involved professional third-party reports and should have been recorded as soon as they were reported.

Because the assault case was written off as an accident, there was no safeguarding or subsequent investigation. The force still has more to do to make sure it records all vulnerable victim crimes, particularly professional third-party reports received in the contact management centre.

Modern slavery

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We, therefore, reviewed the recording of reports of modern slavery offences. We also examined the force’s understanding of the origin of such reports.

We examined 20 modern slavery crimes. From these we found that 14 modern slavery crimes should have been recorded and they were all correctly recorded. One additional crime of possession with intent to supply drugs had also been correctly recorded. We also found that the force is over recording modern slavery crimes, recording six that should not have been recorded at all as they happened abroad.

In addition, we examined a further 20 modern slavery reports and assessed them to contain four modern slavery crimes which were all correctly recorded. One additional crime of common assault had also been correctly recorded. There were two missed crimes; one offence of rape and one of actual bodily harm. We also found a further eight modern slavery crimes that should not have been recorded at all, of which seven happened abroad.

We found that officers and staff have a good basic knowledge of modern slavery offences. We also found that they have a good understanding of their respective responsibilities in relation to the investigation of such offences and where they can find further information. The force has nominated specific points of contact for advice on modern slavery matters in local policing areas, investigation and neighbourhood teams.

Read the full 2017 report

Offences relating to modern slavery are an important and recent addition to the crimes that forces must record and investigate. We examined how well the force records reports of modern slavery offences.

In 2017 we found that the force was recording all modern slavery offences reported to it and disclosed during investigations.

On this occasion, we checked 20 modern slavery records and found that 18 modern slavery crimes had been correctly identified and recorded. Two crimes were recorded unnecessarily. Also, we found 12 additional crimes which the force should have recorded. It had correctly identified and recorded eight of these. The four crimes that were missed were one each of:

  • assault occasioning actual bodily harm;
  • common assault;
  • sexual assault; and
  • theft.

We also looked at 20 modern slavery reports the force received through the national referral mechanism (NRM). We found that it should have recorded 11 modern slavery crimes but had only recorded seven. We found eight additional crimes which should have been recorded and the force had correctly identified and recorded five of these. Three additional common assault crimes were missed. One crime of coercive and controlling behaviour should have been classified as a modern slavery crime.

In 2017, the force was incorrectly over-recording modern slavery crimes that occurred abroad. We are pleased that this is no longer the case.

The force has recently implemented a daily audit of all modern slavery incidents to make sure it correctly identifies and records all crimes. This is welcome.

Timeliness

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 Thames Valley Police, 429 out of 495 reports of violent crime, 301 out of 398 sexual offences (including rape) and 633 out of 671 other offences 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 Victims First. As some victims would benefit from the early support this team can provide, these delays are unacceptable.

Read the full 2017 report

The rules require forces to record crimes within 24 hours of the report. We found that, of the crime reports Thames Valley Police had recorded, it did so within 24 hours for:

  • 453 out of 479 violent crimes;
  • 276 out of 305 sexual offences; and
  • 399 out of 408 other offences.

In general, when Thames Valley Police makes correct crime recording decisions, its procedures successfully make sure it does so within 24 hours. This timely recording enables it to make early referrals to Victims First for those victims in need of support. This is a substantial improvement since our 2017 inspection and is very welcome.

Cancelled crimes

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 force 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 assistant crime registrars (ACRs). The ACRs had correctly cancelled all 20 sexual offences, 19 out of 20 violence offences and 18 out of 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 49 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 47 had been. This demonstrates good attention to victim care.

Read the full 2017 report

Designated decision makers (DDMs) make all crime cancellations except rape. The force crime registrar (FCR) makes rape cancellation decisions.

We found that the force correctly cancelled:

  • 19 out of 20 rape crimes;
  • 17 out of 20 violent crimes;
  • 16 out of 21 sexual offence crimes; and
  • 17 out of 20 robbery offences.

On most occasions when the force’s cancellation decisions were not correct, it was because of a lack of additional verifiable information to show the recorded crime didn’t take place.

Of the 50 victims the force should have told of its decision to cancel their crime, it had informed only 42.

The force’s standards for cancelling recorded crime remain an area for improvement. And it remains a concern that the force does not always inform victims about the cancellation of their recorded crime.

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

graded requires improvement

 
We found that senior leaders had publicised crime-recording expectations to officers and staff. These messages were clear and unambiguous. However, while officers and staff fully understand what was expected, they do not have the knowledge and understanding of the crime-recording rules to meet these expectations. This lack of knowledge is exacerbated by the absence of supervision of their crime-recording decisions.

Importantly, the force needs to reinforce among officers and staff that all reports of crime must be recorded even in cases where the victim chooses not to support an investigation or prosecution.

We also found that insufficient attention had been given to implementing and sustaining changes recommended in the 2014 report and in ensuring the force meets the expectations of the action plan developed by the national policing lead on crime statistics, produced following the publication of the 2014 report. It is disappointing to find that some of the causes of the under-recording of crime found during this inspection reflect these earlier recommendations.

However, the progress made in the use of out-of-court disposals is notable. Effective processes are now in place for monitoring all such disposals, including the use of independent scrutiny panels. Procedural documents are clear and concise; these ensure that considerations as to the suitability of the use of the disposal for both the victim and offender are very good.

Read the full 2017 report

The force has improved its crime recording in many ways. Recording rates have shown statistically significant improvements and it is recording many more of those crimes within 24 hours. And officers and staff generally place the victim at the forefront of their crime recording decisions.

After our 2017 inspection, the force developed a CDI delivery plan. The deputy chief constable (DCC) chairs the quarterly CDI strategic gold group which governs it. The plan seeks to address the recommendations and areas for improvement from our 2017 inspection. But the force recognises that its initial efforts to improve crime recording were not as successful as it expected and that it still has a lot of work to do.

The force has left primary responsibility to make the required improvements to the FCR. So the CDI delivery plan has only moved at a pace that the FCR can manage. The force acknowledges that it needs more work at a senior level to support the FCR in his endeavours. The DCC, helped by relevant staff members, is providing support to make sure the delivery plan gains the momentum needed and is successfully completed. This is a welcome development.

The force has fully implemented four out of six recommendations from our 2017 inspection. It still needs to fully implement the following recommendations:

  • to develop and implement procedures for effectively supervising crime recording decisions across the whole force; and
  • to design and provide training for officers who make crime recording decisions.

Also, the force needs to ensure it makes more progress with the outstanding areas for improvement identified during our 2017 inspection.

Conclusion

Thames Valley Police has made some progress with improving its crime recording standards since our 2017 inspection. This is welcome. But it now needs to work more quickly to address the outstanding causes of concern and areas for improvement identified in this and our previous report. We are confident the leadership and governance arrangements that it now has will enable it to do so.

What next?

We expect the force to continue to address the causes for concern and to fully implement the recommendations and areas for improvement from our 2017 inspection. We will continue to monitor this and will re-inspect the force again to assess its progress.