Several rape cases have been re-opened after serious failings saw them wrongly discarded as “no-crimes” by Cheshire police.
Some victims were not taken seriously due to alcohol and mental health issues – leading to some allegations not even being recorded as crimes, a shock report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) reveals.
The news comes as it is revealed Cheshire Constabulary is the third worst force in England and Wales for recording crimes - with 31.1% being left unrecorded.
County politicians have called for answers from the force’s police chiefs following the HMIC report which reveals that 14 out of 30 rape allegations were wrongly labelled as “no-crimes” – incidents initially recorded as a crime but then found not to be.
And, at times, specialist officers used their opinion rather than verifiable information to decide whether to drop a rape investigation, the report reveals.
Urgent action has been called for by the HMIC, who described their findings as a “significant cause for concern” and a “matter of material and urgent importance”.
Cheshire Constabulary has now reopened all rape investigations classed as “no crimes” between November 2012 and October 2013 – and have extended their investigations to include the twelve months prior to that period.
MP for Eddisbury Stephen O’Brien (Cons) called for a meeting with the new chief constable Simon Byrne, saying: “This raises very serious concerns.
“I will be seeking meetings with the new chief constable and the Cheshire police and crime commissioner at the earliest opportunity to get a clear explanation of the issues behind the HMIC Inspectors’ findings and the immediate steps to be taken to rectify any policy failures and shortcomings in the interests of my constituents, victims and Cheshire residents more broadly.”
MP for the City of Chester Stephen Mosley (Cons) praised the work of police for crime reduction and dealing with victims of violent and sexual crime, but said ‘lessons needed to be learnt’.
The HMIC Crime Data Integrity report reveals a series of failings the force made when recording crimes between November 1, 2012 and October 31 2013.
Inspectors found that 31.1% of reported crimes were not recorded by Cheshire police during their inspection of 43 forces across England and Wales.
This ranks the force as the third worse in the country for recording crime – falling in behind Greater Manchester (31.7%) and West Yorkshire Police (32.1%).
The report reveals that out of 90 crimes that should have been recorded just 62 were – four of these were wrongly classified.
While 19 were recorded outside the 72-hour time limit, the report states.
Cheshire Constabulary incorrectly labelled 42 out of 71 robberies, rapes and violent offences as “no crimes”.
Further criticisms made by HMIC following their inspection, include:
- Call monitoring by force control room supervisors was “ad hoc” due to capacity issues
- Victims’ views were not always being considered during out of court disposals – in 14 disorder cases, where the offender was given a penalty notice, victims’ views were considered in just four
- Cannabis smokers given warnings were not told the implications of accepting the warning
Assistant Chief Constable of Cheshire Constabulary says cases have been reopened in light of the HMIC findings
Speaking to The Chronicle, Assistant Chief Constable Guy Hindle confirmed that rapes which had been classed as “no crimes” had been re-opened by specialist officers to check that all lines of investigation had been followed.
Chief Constable Hindle admitted that mistakes had been made saying the force “accepts entirely” that in some rape cases officers had brought personal opinion into investigations.
Crimes had been failed to be recorded or recorded incorrectly both by officers on the beat and call centre workers, he said.
But he added that the force had conducted an internal review and already addressed some of the recommendations in the report – including piloting a Crime Record Buro, changing the whole process of recording crime and had raised the authority level, to a Force Crime Registrar, who the HMIC said was able to act “objectively” and “impartially” to ensure crime records meet national requirements.
“We are working with vulnerable people who have had a horrific crime committed against them, we need to make them feel safe,” said Chief Constable Hindle.
“We looked at all “no-crimes” for rapes and over the 12 months previous. In each and every case we needed to be confident that no charge would have followed if we had followed it to a logical conclusion.”
Chief Constable Hindle stressed that it was not a case of the Constabulary not supporting victims or misleading members of the public but how crimes were being recorded, reassuring victims that if they were to report a rape their allegation would be investigated robustly.
He said he had confidence in the support and work of officers at the Constabulary’s Dedicated Rape Unit which was set up in 2011 to support victims and help bring offenders to justice.
“It is important to stress that HMIC questioned the administration process of recording the crimes at fault, not the investigations into them.
“I would say [to anyone who is a victim of rape], come to us, we will look after you. Our primary role is to safe guard you from harm.
“We will conduct a robust investigation to find out what happened.”
He added that he wanted to make sure that all crimes were recorded promptly and correctly in the future, saying: “If crime goes up as a consequence of following guidelines to the letter then so be it.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire John Dwyer said: “I am committed to ensuring that victims are at the heart of policing and I am assured that when the Constabulary receives a call for help, that call is assessed and an appropriate response provided, with victims receiving the help and support they need.
“I will hold the Chief Constable to account for implementing the recommendations contained in the report to ensure compliance with national standards and to promote a victim centred approach to crime recording.”