Police in Greater Manchester have come under fire after a new audit found they fail to record a fifth of rape reports.
The victims’ commissioner for England and Wales called the systemic under-reporting of rape “shocking and unforgiveable” and said officers should explain why they are letting victims down.
Independent audits of 36 police forces found that one in 10 rape reports analysed was recorded incorrectly.
Studying nearly 3,700 cases, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services unearthed errors ranging from incorrect paperwork to reports missing from official records.
Greater Manchester Police’s latest audit, published in 2018, revealed 34 out of 181 audited rape reports (19 per cent) were not recorded properly.
Victims commissioner Dame Vera Baird said there is “no excuse” for errors, which mean investigations are not carried out and perpetrators escape justice.
“It takes enormous courage to come forward and report a sexual crime,” she added. “Victims would be devastated to learn that it has not been properly recorded – they deserve better wherever they live. It would be interesting to hear why forces who are recording poorly explain themselves.”
Overall, Greater Manchester Police was found to have recorded 11 per cent of crimes reported to it incorrectly.
Of the 1,358 cases analysed, 291 were linked to domestic abuse. But auditors noted 56 of these did not appear in official figures.
HMICFRS found the force to be “of concern” for crime-reporting.
Poor police record-keeping sent criminals a signal that they were free to reoffend, warned Dame Vera.
“We must remember a crime is not merely a statistic – it can have a devastating impact upon the lives of its victims,” she added. “When those victims report the crime to the local police, the very least they are entitled to expect is that it will be accurately recorded.
“Failure to do so can only undermine public confidence in the police and the wider criminal justice system.”
Det Chief Insp Jude Holmes said: “Rape is an abhorrent crime and one which Greater Manchester Police takes very seriously. Victim care is at the heart of everything we do and anybody who comes forward receives a response and is offered support from specially-trained officers together with support services such St Mary’s Sexual Assault Referral Centre, Survivors
Manchester and Manchester Rape Crisis throughout the process whether it results in a conviction or not.
“We work extremely hard to not only stop sexual violence from happening and keep people safe, but also encourage people to come forward so that we can bring offenders to justice and help victims and survivors get the support that they need.
“The latest HMICFRS audit of GMP in 2018 showed that there were 34 rape reports that were not recorded properly. These 34 reports are linked to 12 different victims of which 11 of those victims have already received appropriate safeguarding and support. We have also developed our recording methods over the last few years to ensure we are capturing a true representation of what’s happening in Greater Manchester.
“If you have been a victim of rape you can report this by calling 101 or, 999 in an emergency. If you have been raped or sexually assaulted and feel you cannot speak to the Police, please call St Marys Sexual Assault Referral Centre on 0161 276 6515 or Survivors Manchester on 0161 236 2182.”
A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “The rate of crime reporting to police forces has increased in recent years, and we are working to further improve the accuracy of crime recording, which is governed by detailed counting rules set out by the Home Office.
“Forces receive regular audits from HMICFRS and work hard to meet objectives within their specific action plans through the use of in-force scrutiny panels, independent oversight, and with the help of crime incident registrars who can assist officers with the appropriate classification and recording requirements.”
Officers always encourage victims to report crimes, he added.