SOME cases of rape and violence were not classified as crimes by West Yorkshire Police, a damning report has found.
Among criticisms in the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary are that some officers see it as acceptable to class incidents as "non-crimes" to avoid extra work, that possible cases of sexual offences are not recognised as crimes, and that too many crimes are being dealt with out of court.
HMIC's "Crime Data Integrity" report into the West Yorkshire force looked at crime records from November 2012 to October 2013 with inspectors analysing small samples of reported offences.
Inspectors looked at 260 incident records and decided that of these, 221 should have been classed as crimes. However, the force had only recorded 150 as crimes.
On rape offences the report says: "Of the 35 no-crime records we examined, 23 met the requirement of the Home Office Counting Rules. This is unacceptable."
Elsewhere, inspectors say there was a "high error rate" in how crimes of robbery and violence were recorded.
The inspectors also looked at 108 reports referred to police through other agencies, such as child protection.
They state: "Of the 27 crimes that should have been recorded, three have been. As some of these records relate to sexual offences and assaults on vulnerable adults and children, this is a serious cause for concern and is a matter of urgent importance."
It reveals that in many cases officers have to be authorised by a more senior officer to record an incident as a crime, a policy HMIC warns: "Should stop immediately."
Referring to out of court responses, like cautions and cannabis warnings, the report says: "It is evident from our inspection that out of court disposals are being used too often when the offender is not suitable, and in respect of cautions and penalty notices for disorder, without due consideration to the views of the victim."
The inspectors add: "The presence of alcohol or mental health issues with the victim, the victim's refusal to support a prosecution and Crown Prosecution Service charging standards being used to influence crime recording decisions were all found to be inappropriately affecting crime recording accuracy.
"Non-adherence to HOCR is considered to be acceptable by some officers in circumstances where it is perceived that there is too much work or insufficient members of staff to deal with the crime."
It makes several recommendations, including that the force uses an "ethical approach" when deciding what to class as a crime, rather than basing decisions on performance concerns.
A spokesman for West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said some of the findings in the report were "clearly a cause for concern".
“The PCC needs to be assured that crimes are being recorded, categorised correctly and that a reduction in crime is truly a reduction and is not down to recording practices," she said.
"This is why the refreshed Police and Crime Plan includes data integrity as a priority. He will be meeting with the Deputy Chief Constable next week to get an early view on the immediate and longer term action they will take to address the recommendations contained in the report.”
MPs in the district also spoke of their unease at the report's findings.
Shipley Conservative MP Philip Davies said: "One of the things that concerns me most is that out of court disposals are being used when they are not suitable. It appears decisions are taken without the view of the victim."
Bradford East Liberal Democrat MP David Ward said: "This raises some really big questions about what we are told by the police regarding reductions in crime."
West Yorkshire Temporary Deputy Chief Constable John Robins said: "It is essential that the public of West Yorkshire feel reassured that their crime is recorded accurately and that it is properly investigated.
“Many of the recommendations relate to issues we had already identified and acted upon as part of our commitment to achieve the highest standards of crime and incident data quality.
“Since the audit, we have carried out a great deal of work and invested resources in this area, to get things right first time.
“We recognise that improvements still need to be made in some areas and we are determined to ensure the quality of our data is of the highest standard.
“There is no doubt that for the tenth year in a row, crime has fallen across West Yorkshire.”