Annex 3: Auditing of data by HMICS
6.33. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland have conducted and, in November 2014, published, a thorough audit of police recorded crime data. In this detailed audit, HMICS has confirmed that the quality of crime recording in Scotland is good, supported by a system of checks and balances, though there is scope for improvement in relation to some sexual crimes and non-crime related incidents.
Crime Audit 2014 was the largest audit into crime recording undertaken by HMICS to date, and shows that the reform of Scottish policing has provided new opportunities for greater consistency. HM Inspector of Constabulary in Scotland, Derek Penman, said of the review:
"It is important that the public can have confidence in crime figures and the scale of this report, which examined five times more records than any previous report, provides that.
"Police Scotland's own auditing of crime recording is good and the fact it broadly mirrors our results should provide assurance as to its accuracy. "
HMICS tested the accuracy of crime recording through an audit of records recorded between 1 April 2013 and 30 June 2014. In deciding which records to audit, HMICS took several factors into account including areas identified as weak in previous audits, areas of high risk or emerging concern, and national and local policing priorities. HMICS audited records in six categories, four of which related to specific crime types:
- Sexual crimes;
- Violent crime;
- Hate crime;
- Non-crime related incidents (i.e. incidents that were potentially crime-related but which were eventually closed as being non-crime related); and
- No-crimes (i.e. cases that were originally thought to be a crime but were later redesignated as not being a crime following additional investigation).
The examination of no-crimes involves an assessment of whether the no-crime decision was correct. Because the no-crime test is different from that applied to incidents, the no-crime results are reported separately.
The following tests can be applied to incidents:
- Test 1 involves reviewing the initial report to the police (the 'incident') and assessing whether the incident has been correctly closed. Correct closure means either that (a) the incident was closed as non-crime related and contained sufficient information to dispel any inference of criminality; or (b) the incident indicated a crime had occurred and a crime report was traced. Incidents which result in a crime report proceed to Test 2.
- Test 2 involves reviewing the crime report to assess whether the crimes recorded are correctly classified and counted. Test 2 allows us to consider whether subsuming has been carried out correctly.
- Timeliness: crimes should be recorded within 72 hours of the circumstances becoming known to the police (or within seven days where the delay is outwith police control).
All three tests were applied to the four crime types HMICS examined (sexual crimes, violent crime, housebreaking and hate crime). Only Test 1 was applied to non-crime related incidents as reviewing them involves a simple assessment of whether the decision not to record a crime was correct.
This was the first crime audit in which HMICS applied a timeliness test. At the time of the review of incident and crime recording in 2013, the SCRS required that crimes be recorded 'as soon as reasonably practicable'. During the 2013 review, HMICS recommended that Police Scotland should clearly define the term 'as soon as reasonably practicable' by introducing timescales.
HMICS also found no overt evidence of performance targets affecting crime recording. If performance targets were driving crime recording practice, HMICS would expect to see crimes featuring in Police Scotland's internal performance framework being under‑recorded or misclassified. For example, the performance framework includes a key performance indicator to reduce the number of serious assaults. If performance pressures were driving recording behaviour, HMICS would expect to see efforts to reduce the number of serious assaults by classifying assaults as less serious (common assaults) or more serious (attempted murders). While HMICS found some evidence of the former, they found no evidence of the latter.
The full report, including key findings, recommendations and improvement actions, can be accessed from the HMICS website: http://www.hmics.org/sites/default/files/publications/HMICS%20-%20Crime%20Audit%202014%20Report.pdf
Email: Keith Paterson
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