Almost a million offences vanish from crime figures each year, as police forces find themselves under increased pressure to meet targets.
A study by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police watchdog, found there was a widespread problem with officers failing to accurately record the number of offences.
It is believed that as many as one in three crimes are being struck off official records in some parts of the country, with violent crimes and sexual offences the most likely to disappear.
The damning report doesn’t go so far as to accuse police of deliberately manipulating the figures, but did speak of “an undercurrent of pressure not to record a crime across some forces.”
Tom Winsor, HMIC’s chief inspector, said: “There is a material risk of the victim and the community not receiving justice. That would mean that in some cases it is impossible for us to determine what proportion of people who should be locked up are still on the streets.”
It is estimated that up to 800,000 crimes reported by the public every year never find their way into official statistics.
Mr Winsor blamed a “targets” culture for the discrepancy, but admitted it was impossible to tell how many of the missing offences had been removed deliberately.
Home Secretary Theresa May, who had commissioned the inquiry, had previously voiced concern about the number of, often serious, offences that were dismissed as “no crimes”.
Reacting to last month’s report, she said: “I expect Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables to show leadership on this issue and join me in making clear that there is no place for target chasing.”
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