RAPE crimes being settled by community resolutions have been branded unacceptable by the police inspectorate in a report into data handling.
An extensive assessment of crime recording practices within Wiltshire Police was published this week and underlines flaws in the system while acknowledging work is being done.
After the force accepted in 2013 that sexual offences figures were being manipulated to portray a more positive outcome, the latest checks reveal that 58 serious sexual offence cases, including five rapes, were resolved by community resolution rather than court.
HMIC have urged the force to implement immediate steps to reinforce data recording and to establish an operating training system for all staff responsible for data within six months.
The report said: “The force does not routinely audit incident and crime records to assess their accuracy, and there is no flexibility within the work of the audit team.
“In the absence of a wider audit regime, there was little evidence of corrective action being extended out to frontline teams or individual officers where crime recording errors were discovered.
“We examined 55 reports which were recorded separately on the public protection unit systems.
“We found that of those 55 reports, 16 should have been recorded as crimes. The force had recorded eight crimes, which were all correctly classified, but three were recorded outside of the 72-hour limit allowed by the HOCR.
“As some of these records related to sexual offences and assaults on vulnerable adults and children, this is a great cause for concern and is a matter of material and urgent importance.
“Wiltshire Police does not have a policy on how rape crimes should be accurately and ethically recorded; however, officers and staff have an understanding of the need for ethical and accurate recording of rape crime.
“The force has made a considerable investment into understanding reports of rape received by all reporting routes.
“This has enabled the force to have a greater degree of confidence in its ability to demonstrate oversight of these routes.
“There is a noticeable change of direction being signalled by the current chief officer team and staff welcome the freedom to record crime accurately without having to worry about any impact on crime performance levels. There are signs of senior managers being encouraged to pursue positive crime data integrity approaches.
“An internal report concludes that ‘Wiltshire Police has intentionally or inadvertently, manipulated the recording of sexual offences and thereby improved the perception of performance’.
“This report estimates the number of rapes not recorded at around 50, and that in the year 2012/13 around 30 serious sexual offences were dealt with by way of community resolutions including rape and sexual activity with a child. The latest force checks have identified some 58 such outcomes, of which, in the previous year, five were rape crimes. This is unacceptable.”
Detective Superintendent Ian Saunders, head of Crime Standards and Justice at Wilshire Police said: “We welcome the findings of this report and recognise the concerns identified regarding some of our crime-recording processes.
“Wiltshire Police is committed to the accuracy of crime recording as we recognise the vital role it plays in securing justice for victims, providing the public with confidence in our practices and providing accurate information on which the organisation can deploy resources.
“HMIC came to inspect Wiltshire Police in March 2014 and we have already taken steps to investigate and identify changes to the processes and systems we use since this inspection.
“We will now review the recommendations made by HMIC and take any further, appropriate action where required.
“In the last few years, Wiltshire Police has undertaken considerable training in our crime recording procedures and, as such, improvements have been made to these practices.
“Some of the specific case studies mentioned in the HMIC report are currently subject to investigations by the Independent Police Complaints Commission following voluntary referrals made by Wiltshire Police so it would be inappropriate to comment further on these.
“Wiltshire Police recognise the seriousness of the concerns raised and will continue to work towards rectifying these.”