Whenever an organisation – whether a business or a public service – suddenly announces it will put a certain group ‘at the heart of what we do’, alarm bells ring that brainless jargon is being deployed to cover up some unpleasant facts.
And so it proved yesterday when Hampshire police revealed that they are changing the way crimes are recorded as ‘part of the constabulary’s growing efforts to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice system’.
Firstly, the instant question this raises is: what on earth were they doing before? Are they implying that until today people calling 999 were secondary to other somehow more pressing needs?
But looking at it in more detail the answer comes out.
The change in crime recording – part of a national shift – is explained when one looks at a report issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.
This has found that across the country about one in four sex offences – including rape – are not classed as crime by police.
And sadly, that national picture is reflected locally, arguably to an even worse extent. In Hampshire HMIC looked at 28 reports of rape that were originally classed as a crime but then declassified. Of these 28, it said that 18 should have been investigated.
It also looked at 127 calls made to the police, and found 112 should have been logged as crimes, but only 67 were.
This is shocking. A lot of people, therefore, have been short-changed by the criminal justice system.
And, what’s worse, for years we have been told that crime is falling. Every time it drops we are told this is due to efficient and effective policing, and if it rises we are told that this is due to people having the confidence to come forward and report it.
But this report is a bombshell. If the patterns found by HMIC have been replicated overall during the last few years, crime is only falling because it is not being recorded by forces.
The police are suffering cuts, it is true, but it is not good enough to have ignored victims of crime who should have been listened to. We have been let down.
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