NYP Fails Crime Recording Inspection
by TIM HICKS
I regularly peruse the website of the Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire and when I looked at it recently, I nearly fell off my seat. The incredible had happened. Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Julia Mulligan – charged with holding North Yorkshire Police (NYP) to account – had criticised NYP!
This, I believe, is the first time this has happened, although I am open to correction.
So what is it that has caused this change?
Well, NYP has been given a rating of “INADEQUATE” (the lowest available to the Inspectorate) by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) for crime recording:
“As it stands today, we estimate almost 1 in 5 crimes in North Yorkshire are not properly recorded. This is simply inexcusable.”
This prompted the following statement from Police and Crime Commissioner Mulligan on the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner website:
“Crime recording must improve as a matter of urgency”
Commissioner Julia Mulligan, elected Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, says the Chief Constable must make improvements ‘as a matter of urgency’ following HMICFRS Crime Data Integrity report which found that 80 per cent of all crime was being recorded by North Yorkshire Police.
Julia said: “I am concerned by this report which clearly identifies that North Yorkshire Police is not recording crime as it should. The public rightly expect better, and improvements need to be made as a matter of urgency.
“I also have wider concerns about how well the police understand some crimes, in particular stalking, harassment and coercive control, which this report highlights. This will form part of the action plan going forwards.
“However, crime recording is complex and can be much more difficult than you may think. For example, the report says, during a single incident a number of crimes may occur which must all be ‘crimed’ separately. In addition, information taken by the Force Control Room is not always fully communicated to officers at the scene.
“On the more positive side, the report does state clearly that the service to victims was not impacted, with officers attending and responding as needed. This is principally therefore a recording issue, as opposed to a failure in providing a service to victims. It is also reassuring to see that there is no evidence of deliberate actions to avoid crime recording.
“In response, it has been agreed that a member of my team will work directly with senior officers to oversee the implementation of an action plan, and I will ask them to report on progress in public.”
The following statement was issued by North Yorkshire Police in response to enquiries from journalists, which has been selectively quoted in the local press:
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Service published its Crime Data Integrity Inspection Report for North Yorkshire Police. Whilst the Force was found to have made good progress against a national action plan to improve crime recording by police forces, its overall rating was inadequate.
Commenting on the HMICFRS’s report findings, Deputy Chief Constable Lisa Winward of North Yorkshire Police said: “Based on its inspection last year, HMICFRS found that although our officers and staff are focused on the needs of victims, our administration is letting us down, and we are not recording all crimes as we should. That must change, and we have already started to make improvements.
“It’s important to remember that every call we answer is logged; nothing is ignored. In every case where there was a vulnerable victim, we sent an officer and provided the service. However we have not recorded everything properly on the system, and we need to do much better.
“Crime recording is a complex field. All but one of the Forces inspected by HMICFRS have been told to make improvements, so this is a national issue that we all need to tackle. At North Yorkshire Police we have already put a group in place to drive the necessary changes, we have issued additional guidance to officers and staff, and we have altered the way we work in the Force Control Room to improve our crime recording. We also have plans for a “peer review”, where we will invite another Force to come in, share their expertise with us, and learn from their experience.
“As a Force we have always focused on providing a service to victims first and foremost, but getting the administration right is also very important. HMICFRS have made recommendations for improvement, and we are putting those into action.”
The HMICFRS Report on the North Yorkshire Police Crime Data Integrity Inspection 2017
The HMICFRS report can be read here. It is a good report, clear, well written and based on empirical audit testing. It is well worth reading in full. The results of the testing are as follows:
- Of a total of 1,711 reports of crime that were audited, 327 crimes were assessed to be related to domestic abuse. Of these 327 crimes, NYP had recorded 243. The 84 offences not recorded included 60 violent crimes, a sexual offence and several criminal damage, malicious communications and public order offences. An estimated 19.9% (9,200) of reported crimes are not recorded.
- An estimated 25.1% (3,300) of violent crimes are not recorded.
- An estimated 10.5% (170) of sex offences are not recorded.
- Of 103 reports of rape that should have been recorded, 9 (8.7%) were not accurately recorded.
- Of 75 vulnerable victim records 44 crimes should have been recorded, of which 30 had been. The unrecorded crimes (31.8%) involved crimes committed against both vulnerable adults and children and included one case of child neglect, two assaults and one sexual assault. All relevant safeguarding was undertaken, however only half of these cases were investigated.
- Home Office standards require that reports of crime are recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report. HMICFRS found that of the reports of crime that had been recorded by NYP, only 74 out of 94 reports of rape, 335 out 448 reports of violent crime, 184 out of 257 sexual offences (excluding rape) and 536 out of 634 other offences had been recorded within 24 hours of receipt of the report.
- Crime cancellation decisions are the responsibility of designated staff, known as the Force Crime and Incident Registrar (FCIR) and Designated Decision-Makers (DDMs). Two out of a sample of 22 (9.0%) rape crimes had been incorrectly cancelled by the FCIR. The DDMs had incorrectly cancelled 4 out of 22 (18.1%) sexual offences and 2 out of 22 (9.0%) violence offences.
- In 15 reported incidents of modern slavery, 8 were recorded as crimes. The 7 unrecorded crimes included one of modern slavery and a separate incident in which 6 offences of sexual activity with a child were not recorded.
The report identified the following process failures:
- Crimes reported during incidents involving domestic abuse are not always 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.
- The force is incorrectly cancelling some recorded rape, violence and sexual offences.
- When there is no requirement for an officer to attend a reported incident, or when further offences come to light after the initial deployment or during subsequent investigation, the force does not always record reported crimes.
- Incident records that contain multiple reports of crime often result in only one crime report being recorded.
- Where further crimes are identified they are often referred to within an existing crime record when, in fact, an additional crime record should be created.
- The force is failing to ensure it records all reports of rape, other sexual offences and violence, including domestic abuse crimes and crimes reported directly to its public protection departments.
- Updates and results from attending officers are not always recorded within incident logs with sufficient accuracy and detail.
The report identified the following reasons for these failures:
- The FCIR – responsible for oversight of crime-recording arrangements – has only recently completed a National College of Policing course for FCIRs and become fully accredited for the role. The FCIR is supported by two deputies, however, both Deputy FCIR posts were vacant. These vacancies have now been filled by staff who do not yet have the experience or the expertise to fully undertake the requirements of the role.
- Attending officers were sometimes unclear on who has responsibility for recording a report of crime when responsibility for the investigation of the crime rests elsewhere. This resulted in some crimes not being recorded.
- Many officers and staff had a very limited understanding of what counts as Additional Verifiable Information (AVI) for the purpose of cancelling a recorded crime. The process applied by the force allows officers to make several attempts to have a crime cancelled without appropriate supervision.
- Not all staff and officers have a good understanding of crime-recording requirements or their responsibilities for crime-recording.
- At the time of the audit the force had experienced a sharp rise in call volume and consequently force control room performance deteriorated. Crimes were recorded in the force control room by trained crime-recorders. These staff were responsible for answering 999 and 101 calls and were under severe pressure to perform both roles. Their priority was to answer calls and therefore crime-recording was not afforded the attention required.
- North Yorkshire Police, officers and staff, in some cases, fail to make correct crime-recording decisions at the first opportunity. This is due to deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes and insufficient understanding of crime-recording requirements.
- Limited supervision means poor crime-recording decisions are not corrected at the earliest opportunity.
- Frontline officers and call handlers are not always sure about crime-recording requirements, and there is a lack of experience and knowledge among some recently recruited staff. Consequently basic crime-recording principles and knowledge of crime-recording requirements relating to common assault, harassment, malicious communications, public order offences and making, taking or distributing indecent images of children are not always understood.
- Call-handlers (who receive reports of crime by telephone) sometimes apply the wrong incident type to an incident thus making it unclear that it involves the commission of a crime.
- Insufficient emphasis has been given to the account of the victim at the point of reporting, when assessing whether, on the balance of probability, an offence has been committed.
- Dispatchers do not always pass all available information to attending officers thereby making accurate crime-recording decisions difficult.
Sometimes it is not nice to be vindicated.
I found the HMICFRS report to be deeply concerning. The NYE has been raising some of the issues identified by HMICFRS for some time. From a journalistic point of view this verifies the accuracy of our reporting and vindicates our investigations. But it gives me no pleasure to see victims being continually let down so badly by NYP. Particularly when some of them are vulnerable persons that require safeguarding.
I have been highly critical of two units within NYP for many years:
- The NYP Protecting Vulnerable Persons Unit (PVPU). Which is responsible for investigating offences against children, vulnerable adults and sexual offences. An area that has been singled out for severe criticism by HMICFRS.
There were incredible revelations about these issues in the PVPU during the misconduct hearing for Detective Constable (DC) Lane of the PVP Unit in 2016 after the acquittal of a rape suspect. An appeal court judge criticised NYP over the most “total and abject failure to deal with disclosure” he had seen in 50 years. According to press reports it was stated in the hearing that:
- North Yorkshire Police failed to follow its own policies when the officer commanding the PVPU allocated a rape case to DC Lane to investigate, when it should have been investigated by a more experienced Detective Sergeant.
- DC Lane had raised concerns over his lack of training.
- Officers working for the unit had raised concerns over under manning.
- A wellbeing study of officers in the unit stated they lacked knowledge.
- There were basic investigative failings.
This situation was summed up by DC Lane’s Counsel: “North Yorkshire Police was operating in breach of its own policy and the consequences of this were foreseeable and grave.” Multiple investigations were affected by the situation prevailing in the PVPU over a considerable period of time. Now the HMICFRS report has found the same issues, confirming that nothing has changed and that NYP is still not investigating crimes against vulnerable persons properly or recording them accurately.
All of this is contrary to the view put forward publicly by PCC Julia Mulligan and NYP. In September 2014 PCC Mulligan ordered a review of the PVPU procedures relating to Child Sexual Exploitation, to ensure nothing like the Rotherham scandal could occur in North Yorkshire.
The Health Check was issued by Detective Chief Superintendent Simon Mason on the 15th of October 2014 and can be read here. It gave the PVPU a clean bill of health. When in fact it appears to have been a shambles.
- The NYP Force Intelligence Bureau (FIB): Which collates intelligence based on crime figures and liaises with other forces.
The FIB was severely criticized on the 12th November 2014, when it was announced that the IPCC was to investigate the failure of NYP to process intelligence about paedophiles. BBC report here.
Now, HMICFRS has confirmed that 20% of crimes are not being recorded. This completely undermines the ability of the FIB to maintain accurate intelligence on active criminals across all types of offending, or to accurately identify trends and patterns in offending. The report goes on to state that NYP: “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)”. Indicating a failure in FIB intelligence collection, collation and analysis.
The NYP and OPCC Corporate Communications response
The OPCC has a staff of two Corporate Communications Officers. It is separately established from the NYP Corporate Communications Team, which has an additional ten or eleven. It appears that neither team has coordinated its response to this disaster:
- The OPCC Corporate Communications Team has released a positive statement on the website which gives the bare fact, but then goes on to downplay the importance by claiming it has not impacted victims when in fact it clearly did.
- The NYP statement was only issued to journalists and has not been issued to the public, or published on the NYP website. Thereby staying “on message”, projecting a positive image by withholding negative news from the public and evading the need to provide a detailed explanation to the public of this major failure.
Two classic PR responses to bad news, which are both misleading to the public.
Further, unlike the OPCC Corporate Communications Team, which has responded promptly and courteously to enquiries from the NYE, the NYP Corporate Communications Team has ignored all requests for comment and information. It appears to be following a policy of news blackout.
This is a damning report. It indicates failures in intelligence, manning, leadership, supervision, training, processes, investigations, safeguarding of vulnerable persons and communication across a wide range of crimes.
This is particularly concerning, given that in November 2017, HMICFRS gave NYP an Overall Efficiency Assessment of “Requires Improvement”, a deterioration from the previous year’s position when NYP was assessed as “Good”. Commenting on the 2017 report, Assistant Chief Constable Phil Cain said: “North Yorkshire remains the safest county in England, we are one of only two Forces to have actually reduced crime in this inspection period,” As a result of this latest HMICFRS report, it is now clear that the reduction in crime ACC Cain refers to was fictional. It occurred because NYP were not recording all of the crimes committed in the area. The concern must be that if crime had been accurately recorded, the assessment would also have been “Inadequate”, not “Requires Improvement”. No attempt has been made to correct these comments on the website. Articles on the website still state that based on the crime figures, North Yorkshire has maintained its position as the safest area in England, whilst conveniently omitting to mention that the crime figures are understated by 20%.
Although the statement from NYP has been selectively released to the local press, the resultant press comment has been superficial. It has not involved the detailed analysis the NYE has applied above, revealed the full extent of the failure, or released the report and statements in full. (Again verifying the need for independent in depth analysis from citizen journalists).
In summary, it appears that the impact of this major policing failure has been skillfully downplayed and portrayed as an administrative failure, when it is in fact a major operational failure. A major success, skillfully executed for the NYP and OPCC Corporate Communications Teams.
The response of PCC Mulligan to this major policing failure
In her statement above, PCC Mulligan states:
“On the more positive side, the report does state clearly that the service to victims was not impacted, with officers attending and responding as needed. This is principally therefore a recording issue, as opposed to a failure in providing a service to victims.”
Hmmm Julia, are you talking about the same report? In fact, what the report actually says is this:
- ….too many offences continue to go unrecorded and therefore not investigated properly. The force is potentially depriving victims of the services and justice to which they are entitled.
- In the crimes not recorded, HMICFRS found that safeguarding requirements had been considered in most of these cases but that around half of these were not investigated.
- Although some victims may be referred to support agencies in other ways, the delay in recording a reported crime also delays the referral of the victim to Supporting Victims. As some victims would benefit from the early support this service can provide, these delays are unacceptable.
- A victim should always be informed of the status of his or her reported crime when a crime has been cancelled or transferred to another force for investigation. 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 53 victims who should have been informed of the transfer or cancellation, 41 had been told.
- Delays in recording of a reported crime are, in some cases, leading to delays in the referral of victims to the force’s victim support service Supporting Victims, letting down those victims who need the early support this service can provide.
- The recording of a report of rape is important. Victims generally require significant support from the outset and any delay in providing support can harm both the recovery of the victim and any investigation.
- The investigation found that in three of the rapes not recorded, adequate safeguarding was not put in place and two of them were not sufficiently investigated. In one of these cases the crime was not recorded because the victim was suffering from mental health issues and officers did not properly understand how to deal with her ability to consent. She subsequently reported being victim to the same offender on a second occasion and NYP is now investigating these matters.
- 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 from other appropriate agencies, such as Supporting Victims – the NYP in-house team which supports victims of crime. In these circumstances, crime-recording is even more important because failing to record a violent crime may mean that Supporting Victims is not notified that a person has become a victim of violent crime and so cannot offer victims the support they need and deserve.
This confirms explicitly that contrary to PCC Mulligan’s statement, the service to victims (including vulnerable persons needing safeguarding) was very badly affected and there has been a catastrophic failure by NYP to support victims of crime in North Yorkshire.
PCC Mulligan has not released what her previous occupation was, or what if any professional qualifications she holds, other than giving a vague description in her biography. This information has been requested, but PCC Mulligan has withheld it from the NYE and from our readers. However my understanding is that before becoming PCC she worked in marketing and is therefore fully familiar with Corporate Communications techniques.
The crime rates can be used to determine Chief Police Officers Bonuses, the performance of senior police officers and PCCs. As a politician Mrs Mulligan obviously values good personal PR. This may be the reason why there are thirteen Corporate Communications wonks to give a positive but misleading image to the public. But NYP cannot afford a qualified and experienced FCIR, two Deputy FCIRs with appropriate training and experience, or enough crime recorders and call handlers in the control room.
The report states that “Despite the deficiencies in the force’s crime-recording processes, including the limited supervision applied to crime-recording decisions, overall we found good leadership from senior officers in North Yorkshire Police in regard to crime-recording expectations, and an approach among the majority of officers and staff that places the victim at the forefront of their crime-recording decisions.” However, contrary to the Mrs Mulligan’s statement, it does not state and cannot be construed as stating: “the service to victims was not impacted, with officers attending and responding as needed”. As shown above, the report is explicit that the service to victims was impacted and they were let down. PCC Mulligan’s statement therefore appears to be highly and deliberately misleading.
PCC Mulligan and NYP were provided with a draft of this article and asked for a comment. ACC Cain was unavailable for comment and no comment was received from the NYP media office. PCC Mulligan issued a statement through her press office to the NYE that “Julia has already commented on the HMICFRS CDI report and will not be commenting further at this time”. Classic PR strategy for dealing with bad news: Release a vague statement with positive remarks, then suppress any further debate by not commenting.
This report represents a major success for HMICFRS because its independent inspection has revealed fundamental, performance, recording and prioritisation issues that have been present for many years, but were ignored by PCC Mulligan. It will take more than a fluffy, cuddly, public relations politician and misleading press releases, to deal with the entrenched issues in North Yorkshire Police. Compare the robust approach of PCC Keith Hunter of Humberside, to that of PCC Mulligan when Humberside Police received an “Inadequate” rating from HMICFRS in June 2015 and a “Requires Improvement” rating in another inspection in May 2016.
On a positive note, HMICFRS has specified a full programme of corrective measures and directed NYP to implement it within six months. Such is the “serious causes of concern” discovered during this inspection that HMICFRS is to re-visit NYP to ensure that the force is implementing its recommendations. It appears that by supervising the resolution of these issues, HMICFRS is to some degree intervening in the management of NYP. This gives me some confidence that they will be addressed.