Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Police ordered to investigate

With this new Home Office initiative it is going to be diffcult to for Police dismiss claims of misconduct by council officials as simply 'civil matters.' With some very serious investigations pending and some serious allegations of criminality about to enter the public domain it is only a matter of time before the civil parking enforcement industry is brought into the public spotlight. The years of lawless, unregulated behaviour is reaching the end of the line.

Police ordered to investigate all incidents
Police are to be forced to fully investigate every case reported to them under new Home Office rules to prevent victims' complaints being dismissed too quickly.
By Tom Whitehead,
Home Affairs Editor
16 Dec 2009

Officers will have to provide "hard evidence" that no crime occurred before writing off an incident following concerns by the police watchdog that genuine offences are being wrongly rejected.
The new guidelines, which have the backing of police chiefs, mean officers will have to give every report their full attention and makes it far more likely that they will visit any alleged victim.

Police forces are under growing pressure to commit to attend every single victim of crime who wants to see them, a policy that now has the backing of several senior figures including the Home Secretary.
There are concerns that some alleged offences, from serious assaults and rapes to theft and criminal damage, are too quickly dismissed as unfounded because they believe the victim or witness is lying or wrong.

Now they will have to demonstrate to senior officers that cases and available evidence were properly examined before deciding whether a crime occurred.
That will include independent evidence that no offence took place, such as CCTV images, witness statements or even images from mobile phone cameras belonging to members of the public.

However, rank and file leaders warned the demands will only lead to yet more bureaucracy for officers and time spent chasing incidents that are clearly not crimes.

A spokeswoman for Victim Support said: “We are glad the government is taking this issue seriously because if victims feel their experience of crime is being dismissed by the very agencies that are meant to deal with the situation that risks adding insult to injury.
"But as well as making sure crimes are recorded properly, the police need to do more to promote the help available to victims and witnesses of crime.”

Guy Dehn, director of the charity Witness Confident, welcomed the rules and said it will lead to police giving more attention to victims and witnesses.
He said one of the key causes for a lack of faith in policing is a belief that nothing will be done even if a crime is reported.
"If there is a message coming from politicians and police leaders that when cases are reported they will be looked in to and dealt with properly that will increase public confidence and more people will believe it is worthwhile engaging in the criminal justice system," he said.

In October, Denis O'Connor, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, warned that violent assaults and domestic attacks were being wrongly written off when they should have been treated as crimes and fully investigated.

In a joint response to that report, the Home Office and Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) have drawn up new rules that officers will now have to back up any decision to write off an incident as a so-called "no crime" with "additional verifiable information".
Officers will no longer be able to dismiss an alleged offence simply because they think the victim is lying.

It is estimated that around 200,000 incidents are dismissed as not a crime each year, which in future will now require more time and resources before being rejected.

The Home Office/Acpo report said: "It is important that the public feel confident and comfortable reporting crime to the police. The accurate recording of those crimes is then essential to ensuring that each person who has unfortunately found themselves a victim of crime receives the appropriate level of response and support.
"No crimes are required to have sufficient 'additional verifiable information' (AVI) which demonstrates that the incident recorded as a crime was not actually one in practice.
"The expectation is that 'hard' evidence such as CCTV footage would be used. 'Soft' evidence, for example the belief of the reporting officer that the victim was lying without verifiable supporting information is not adequate."

The police inspectorate found that, in a sample of 479 "no crimes", one in three decisions was wrong. One in 20 should have been recorded as a serious violent crime, and a third should have been recorded as a less serious assault.

If repeated across all forces, it would mean 5,000 victims of violence alone being ignored. Among the cases was a woman left battered and bruised after her partner slapped her, grabbed her by the neck and threw her to the floor. The unnamed force recorded no crime as having taken place. It should have recorded actual bodily harm, the inspectorate found.
In another case, a victim needed six stitches to his head after he was set upon. The inspectorate said that should have been recorded as grievous bodily harm.
Mr O'Connor said the findings on crime reporting were "of concern" while David Hanson, the policing minister, called wrong decisions "unacceptable".
Fresh guidance on what is sufficient supporting evidence is to be drawn up and circulated by February.

However, Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: "We are going to end up investigating every incident to prove no crime has happened.
"We need to trust the officer's discretion. All we are doing is making the whole process more bureaucratic.
"Let's use our supervisors in the role they are designed to do. They should be looking at these crime reports when they come in."

Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, said: "This Government’s reputation over its use of crime figures is so shot to pieces that frankly most people will think that Labour Ministers are engaged in yet another attempt to massage figures for their own political advantage."

Mr Hanson said, "The public and the government expect crime to be taken seriously and for crime statistics to be recorded accurately.
"Accurate recording of crimes is essential to ensure every victim receives the level of service and support they expect and deserve.
"The majority of forces perform well when classifying crime but the actions we are taking forward as a result of the HMIC recommendations will go even further to make sure the recording rules are properly applied."

Last month Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, said the principle that police should visit every victim of crime, no matter how minor the offence, was "absolutely right".
His comments echoed those of Jacqui Smith, his predecessor, Mr O'Connor and Chief Constable Julie Spence, for Acpo.
Shortly before stepping down as Chief Constable of Merseyside, Bernard Hogan-Howe said in September that police who refuse to visit every crime victim are guilty of "arrogance".
The issue was first brought to the fore last year by the then Chief Constable of Essex, Roger Baker, who advocated such a policy. By the end of the year, eight forces had promised it.

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