A FIFTH of crimes in Cornwall could be going unrecorded by police, according to a new report.
An inspection of 13 forces – including Devon and Cornwall Police - found 14 rapes were among offences not recorded by officers.
It included an allegation made by a 13-year-old autistic boy against a 15-year-old male friend, wrongly written off as “sexual experimentation”.
Another rape was not recorded due to “workload pressure” as recording the crime would “entail too much work”, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said.
The police watchdog also found some offenders have been issued with out-of-court disposals, such as cautions, when they should have been prosecuted.
An unrecorded crime is classed as one that is reported to the police, but not recorded as an offence.
HMIC is conducting an inspection into the way all 43 forces in England and Wales record crime data, and said if its findings so far reflect the national picture, it could mean 20% of crimes may be going unrecorded.
As for motive, inspectors said they could not rule out “discreditable or unethical behaviour” on the part of officers for the failure rate, as it’s “too high.”
Out of a sample of 3,102 incidents, HMIC found 2,551 crimes should have been recorded but 523 were not, including sexual offences, crimes of violence, robbery and burglary.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the report exposed “unacceptable failings by the police” and warned that once HMIC concludes its work in October, official figures may show a spike in police recorded crime.
“If that increase is driven by improved accuracy in the recording of crime or more victims reporting crime to the police, we should welcome it,” she said. “Such an increase would not mean that crime itself is rising.”
She added: “Despite these concerns about the accuracy of recorded crime statistics, we can be confident that crime is falling and is at its lowest level since the crime survey began in 1981.”
The shocking report comes after serious concerns were raised over the integrity of crime figures, sparked by claims made by former Metropolitan Police officer James Patrick last year.
Mr Patrick, who has since resigned, told MPs that massaging crime figures to hit performance targets had become ‘’an ingrained part of policing culture”.
His comments, combined with further evidence submitted to Parliament, ultimately led to the UK Statistics Authority stripping police-recorded crime figures of their gold-standard status.
HM chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor said the consequences of under-recording of crime may mean victims and the community are failed because crimes are not investigated.
“The levels of crime will be wrongly under-stated, and police chiefs will lack the information they need to make sound decisions on the deployment of their resources,” he said.
Adam Pemberton, assistant chief executive at charity Victim Support believes this is about more than simply “inaccurate statistics” or “poor number-crunching”.
“Each mistake represents a victim losing their chance to get justice and to access support services,” he said.
“It is completely unacceptable that victims of any crimes – let alone serious sexual offences such as rape – should have their complaints go unrecorded or downgraded because of police incompetence or even laziness.
“We know from speaking to tens of thousands of victims of crime every year how important it is victims get the help they need and that they trust the police to carry out a thorough investigation."
Although only 13 of the 43 forces have been inspected, this covers 60% of crimes, because two of the largest - the Metropolitan Police and Great Manchester Police - have already been done, HMIC said.
The forces inspected so far are Cheshire, City of London, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Gloucestershire, Greater Manchester, Gwent, Hertfordshire, the Metropolitan Police, Norfolk, North Wales, North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.