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One Fifth Of Crimes 'May Be Unrecorded'

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4:28pm 1st May 2014
(Updated 4:28pm 1st May 2014)

Almost a fifth of crimes in Cornwall and Devon are being swept under the carpet.

Inspectors have found some offences are not being recorded - and therefore are not investigated.

An interim report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) examined 13 police forces, including Devon and Cornwall.

It found that offences - including 14 rape allegations - were not properly pursued.

If the findings by the police watchdog reflect national crime figures, it could mean 20% of crimes are being wrongly dismissed.

HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor said: "If the police are not recording crime when they should, then victims are denied justice.

"Police chiefs can't be held to account and they don't have the information they need."

Deputy Chief Constable of the Devon and Cornwall force, Bill Skelly, said: "Does every force get it right 100 percent of the time, well I think that is not going to be the case, I can absolutely assure people in Devon and Cornwall that we take things like rape very seriously and put a significant amount of effort into responsibility into and caring for victims.

"The team itself from HMIC that came to look at us initially here in Devon and Cornwall had a number of crimes that they thought we should record and in dialogue with us then changed their minds, that is not a criticism of HMIC that just explains how complex and difficult these judgements are."

In one instance, "workload pressure" was the reason a rape was not recorded.

In another case a 13-year-old autistic boy's claim that he was sexually assaulted was written off as "sexual experimentation". It is not clear which forces were responsible.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics last week showed police recorded 3.7 million offences in the year to December 2013.

However, if the HMIC report is correct the real figure could be as high as 4.4 million.

Gabrielle Browne was sexually assaulted in a park in 2003, but believes that police did not want her to press for prosecution.

She told Sky News: "If you've been the victim of a serious sex offence your soul is ripped apart and the most important thing is that, when they report the crime to the police, that the police believe them, take their complaint seriously and investigate that offence diligently."

Home Secretary Theresa May said the report exposed "unacceptable failings by the police".

"It is quite possible, once HMIC has completed its work on recorded crime statistics and made recommendations on how the police need to improve, that we will see an increase in recorded crime," she said.

"If that increase is driven by improved accuracy in the recording of crime or more victims reporting crime to the police, we should welcome it.

"Such an increase would not mean that crime itself is rising."

A final report into all 43 UK police forces is due in October.

4:28pm 1st May 2014

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