A third of crimes - equivalent to tens of thousands of offences - could be going unrecorded by police in North Yorkshire, a damning report has found.
An inspection of 13 forces across the country found 14 rapes were among offences not recorded by officers, including an allegation made by a 13-year-old autistic boy written off as “sexual experimentation”.
Another rape was not recorded due to “workload pressure” as recording the crime would “entail too much work”, the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) said.
North Yorkshire was one of the forces inspected, with a dip sample of 34 out of 105 reports of robbery, rape and violence recorded as no crime’ showing that nearly a third were found to be incorrect. North Yorkshire was found to have correctly recorded 56 out of 64 incidents as crimes.
North Yorkshire Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick said: “We are awaiting the detailed report that is specific to North Yorkshire Police.
“However, we have already acted upon the initial feedback to ensure we continue to improve on the services we provide.
“It is important to note that victims of crime have independently demonstrated, via The British Crime Survey, that North Yorkshire Police provide one of the highest standards of service in the country.”
Julia Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “The interim HMIC report gives me cause for concern.
“Behind every statistic in this report is an individual, a victim, and I have committed to supporting those people however I can. I am confident the same desire is at the heart of North Yorkshire Police, but there are clearly some questions which need to be answered.
“North Yorkshire Police are already taking steps to deal with some of the issues, as am I. For example, we are just about to launch a new, independent Out of Court Disposal Panel, to be chaired be a member of the public.
“I will be speaking to the Chief Constable urgently on this report, ensuring we are undertaking the necessary steps to resolve any under-recording of crime in North Yorkshire.”
Nationally, the police watchdog also found some offenders have been issued with out-of-court disposals, such as cautions, when they should have been prosecuted.
And inspectors said they could not rule out “discreditable or unethical behaviour” on the part of officers for the failure rate.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the report exposed “unacceptable failings by the police” and warned that once HMIC concludes its work in October, official figures may show a spike in police recorded crime.
HM chief inspector of constabulary Tom Winsor said: “The consequences of under-recording of crime are serious, and may mean victims and the community are failed because crimes are not investigated, the levels of crime will be wrongly under-stated, and police chiefs will lack the information they need to make sound decisions on the deployment of their resources.”
The police watchdog is conducting an inspection into the way all 43 forces in England and Wales record crime data and said if its findings so far reflect the national picture, it could mean 20 per cent of crimes may be going unrecorded.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) last week showed police recorded 3.7 million offences in the year to December 2013 - but if HMIC is correct, the real figure could be as high as 4.4 million.