Inspectorate â€˜should do moreâ€™ to scrutinise figures, academic says.
Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) was â€œslowâ€ to take up the role of examining crime recording when the previous scrutinising body stopped performing the task, an academic has told MPs.
Professor Stephen Shute, a Sussex University criminologist who sits on the Crime Statistics Advisory Committee (CSAC) said the Inspectorate had only published two â€œsignificantâ€ reports on the issue since the Audit Commission stopped being responsible for the area in 2006/07.
He added that CSAC, an independent advisory body founded in 2011, wanted the Inspectorate to do more to oversee the issue.
Prof Shute (right) was responding to a question from MP Kelvin Hopkins, who asked whether HMIC was â€œthe right organisationâ€ to scrutinise crime statistics during a session of the Public Administration Select Committee.
Mr Hopkins referred to HMICâ€™s report on Kent Police published earlier this year, launched at the request of Police and Crime Commissioner Ann Barnes. This followed the arrests of officers for allegedly manipulating figures, which highlighted serious issues around crime being recorded wrongly to meet numerical targets.
Mr Hopkins said a previous HMIC inspection of the force had not identified these crucial issues. He suggested the â€œintensiveâ€ focus of the later report had produced a different result.
Prof Shute said: â€œIf you donâ€™t have HMIC doing this work, itâ€™s hard to think who else would do it. You need an Inspectorate that has authority, standing and understanding of the area they are looking at.â€
He added: â€œItâ€™s fair to say HMIC was slow to step into the gap created by the cessation of the Audit Commissionâ€™s work. We had to wait until 2009 before we had the first HMIC report. We have only had two significant published reports so far.
â€œI think thereâ€™s more that HMIC can do in this area. My committee is encouraging HMIC to do more.â€
Prof Shute added there would always be â€œlegitimate questionsâ€ about the sort of external scrutiny crime recording should have.
He said that having an HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary who had not served as an officer â€“ in the shape of Tom Winsor â€“ should give the Inspectorate â€œmore distance, perspective and independenceâ€.
Prof Mike Hough (left), a Birkbeck University academic who also sits on the CSAC, told the MPs: â€œI thought HMICâ€™s report into Kentâ€™s crime figures was pretty tough. It was a hard report with difficult messages. It made me pretty comfortable (with having HMIC investigate crime figures).
A spokesman for HMIC told PoliceOracle.com the two Kent reports were done using â€œdifferent methodologiesâ€ which was why one had highlighted issues and the other had not.
The Inspectorate is embarking on an inspection of crime recording in all 43 forces and is expected to report on the issue in autumn next year, he added.
Prof Shute also told MPs misrecording crime was â€œnothing newâ€, adding the then-chief HMI Sir Leonard Dunning had expressed fears it was happening in his annual report of 1921.
HMIC â€˜slowâ€™ to take up crime recording