In Brief

Why are police inaccurately recording rapes?

Investigation finds more than 10% of reports are inaccurate

Rapists may have been allowed to reoffend after thousands of reports of rape were inaccurately recorded by the police over the past three years.

Analysis by The Guardian shows that the vast majority of police forces audited by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services failed to collect accurate rape crime figures, resulting in cases going unrecorded and investigations not being carried out.

More than one in 10 audited rape reports were found to be incorrect, with allegations from those with mental health and addiction issues particularly likely to be struck from the record by a number of police forces. Allegations from victims of trafficking were also often left off.

In one case, a rape reported to Greater Manchester police was not recorded as a crime. The victim was in a secure mental health facility and staff from the facility assessed that the victim “lacked the capacity to make an informed complaint”.

In North Yorkshire a report of a victim with mental health issues was not recorded as a rape as “officers did not properly understand how to deal with her ability to consent”.

Louise Ellison, a professor of law at the University of Leeds, said: “People within the system who support victims of rape will tell you quite candidly that there are women who are coming in through their doors on quite a regular basis reporting rape and their cases are never appropriately investigated by the police.”

She added that such cases “go nowhere because they are automatically assumed to be lacking in credibility”.

Audits of 34 police forces published between August 2016 and July 2019 found just three had accurately recorded complaints of rape. Of the more than 4,900 audited rape reports, 552 were found to be inaccurate.

Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said the news is “a concern” because “rape is a serial offence”. She added: “It should be a very considered decision not to pursue something that looks like a rape as a crime of rape”.

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