Sexual offences and assaults on vulnerable adults are not always being recorded as crimes.

The revelation has been described as “significant cause for concern” by inspectors carrying out a review on Devon and Cornwall Police. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has published an inspection report on crime data integrity for 13 police forces in England and Wales, including Devon and Cornwall.

As part of it inspectors examined 54 reports, which were recorded separately on the force |non-crime system. They found that of those, 12 should have been recorded as crimes, but that the force had recorded only two out of the 12 correctly – less than 20 per cent.

Also examined were 120 incident records, with inspectors finding that 117 crimes should have been recorded – but only 98 actually were. Of these, one was wrongly classified and three recorded outside the 72-hour limit. The report states: “There is a need for improvement in the accuracy and |timeliness of crime-recording decisions. The force has a centralised crime recording unit through which crime is recorded, either as a consequence of an incident or recorded directly from the public |without the need for an incident record.

“It is estimated that 53 per cent of crime is |recorded directly from the public without an| incident record.”

Inspectors have recommended that the force “immediately” takes steps to make sure reports recorded on other system, such as those used by public protection teams, are recorded as crimes.

“The quality of incident and crime reports| “varied considerably,” with some containing no more than basic information, although detailed information was available in records of serious crime.

Frontline officers and staff were found to have not received structured training in relation to the national standard for crime recording and it was recommended that within six months the force should establish and begin operation of an |“adequate system of training” in this for all police officers and police staff responsible for making decisions in this area, and ensure those who require such training receive it “as soon as is reasonably practicable.”

Deputy Chief Constable for Devon and Cornwall Police, Bill Skelly, said: “It is hugely important that people in Devon and Cornwall have confidence in the way we record crime and this report| acknowledges that we have ethical and |victim-centred processes in place.”

DCC Skelly added that there were already changes in place and others were in the process of being dealt with.