National Police Chiefs’ Council estimates changes to recording processes will save 443,000 hours of police time a year.

Two police officers.

Police will have more time to prioritise victims of crime and bring criminals to justice under new rules announced today to cut unnecessary red tape when recording crime.

Victims reporting multiple offences will have more support from police, as officer time is freed up to focus on bringing justice rather than on duplicative record keeping. It follows a National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) review which found that 443,000 officer hours are spent filling in unnecessary forms and burdensome administrative tasks – time that could be better spent cutting crime and keeping our streets safe.

All reported crimes for a single incident will now consistently be recorded under the ‘principal offence’, rather than as multiple entries on a database that effectively re-records the same incident. The police will continue to pursue all offences involved, understanding how they are linked, as part of their thorough investigative work.

This will bring a consistent approach to the recording of all offences, seeing crime recorded more accurately. It also aims to drive up charge rates for crimes and make sure perpetrators face the highest penalties. For example, under these changes, where a victim has experienced stalking with criminal damage occurring to their property, police will now put stalking at the forefront of their investigation.

Today’s changes will be accompanied by training for officers in how to investigate such offences, to get the best results for victims.

Minister for Crime and Policing Chris Philp said:

Overall crime, excluding fraud and computer misuse, has halved since 2010, but we are determined to go further.

Victims must always be at the centre of our response to crime. Listening to forces and cutting unnecessary red tape will mean police officers can focus on solving crime and delivering justice for victims, as well as preventing it from happening in the first place.

We are confident that we will reach our target to have most police officers in history. With less unnecessary admin, we want them to be our most effective police officers in history too.

The changes will:

  • standardise counting rules with the ‘principal offence’ approach across the board, to record the crime which has the most impact on a victim
  • save police time by no longer recording cases of messages that might offend someone or where a public disturbance occurred but has been resolved. This will require sign-off by a supervisor such as a Police Sergeant
  • make it easier to cancel recording of a crime where there’s enough evidence that none was committed. The sign-off required will vary on the gravity of the offence

The changes will take effect in the coming weeks, following recommendations from an in-depth review by the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for Crime Data Integrity, Chris Rowley.

Gavin Stephens, Chair of the NPCC, said:

Police officers must be totally focused on keeping people safe and ensuring they feel safe. We want to provide the best possible policing to the public and the work of the Police Productivity Review is aimed at removing barriers and improving effectiveness.

The review has already identified that 443,000 officer hours are spent filling in forms and dealing with unnecessary administrative tasks. These equate to the equivalent of attendance at 220,000 domestic abuse incidents, 270,000 burglaries, or almost 740,000 antisocial behaviour incidents.

Any move to free up our frontline to serve our communities is welcome.

Andy Marsh, CEO of the College of Policing, said:

We all want to see the police spending as much time as possible catching criminals and keeping the communities they serve safe.

Officers and staff must be able to maintain high standards and properly record and investigate reported crimes whilst not becoming bogged down in unnecessary bureaucracy. Anything that helps policing focus on its core mission, including this change, is to be welcomed.

Marc Jones, Chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said:

As the public’s representatives to policing we have long called for changes to the way crime is recorded, to ensure it is more transparent and less bureaucratic.

We welcome these changes which will simplify recording, enable the police to focus on cutting crime and allow Police and Crime Commissioners to better hold our Chief Constables to account on behalf of victims and the public.

Spearheaded by the Home Secretary’s common-sense policing campaign, posting messages that may offend someone but where no victim has actually been identified should no longer be considered a crime.

Police will also be empowered to make decisions on cases where communications, such as text messages or letters, are malicious or rude, but not threatening. Officers should be on our streets investigating crimes like burglary, not comments made online. As such, they will consider if such issues should be dealt with by social media companies instead.

This follows new statutory guidance on the recording of so-called non-crime hate incidents, which will ensure police are prioritising the freedom of expression that our nation is built on.

And police will no longer need to record public disturbances that have already been dealt with or are quiet once the police arrive at the scene.

The improvements will give a clearer picture of police caseload and better hold them to account for their response. Reviews of the counting rules are regularly undertaken, with significant changes previously made in 1998, 2002, 2015 and 2017. The Crime Survey for England and Wales is the best measure of trends in crime experienced by the general public according to the Office for National Statistics and remains unaffected by the changes.

We are determined to bring all offenders to justice. Together with policing and the Crown Prosecution Service, we are looking at best practice models across England and Wales, and ensuring processes are proportionate. We will make sure the criminal justice system can work as one, reducing burdens such as unnecessary redactions, while maintaining victim and witness confidence.

Frontline public services must also match community and individuals’ needs. A new agreement between policing and health partners is being developed to deliver better care for people in a mental health crisis and free up police officers’ time to focus on fighting crime. This addresses concerns raised by Chief Constables over the amount of resource being diverted away from police work to respond to mental health emergencies.

The new National Partnership Agreement will be underpinned by the principle that mental health incidents should receive a health response first – while recognising some situations may still require police presence. Following this Agreement, local police and health partners need to work together to deliver improvements to triage methods used by the police, to ensure the right agency responds to a mental health incident, removing police involvement earlier in the process where it isn’t needed.

Further changes are expected following the NPCC’s review of police productivity, which intends to provide clear, practice and deliverable recommendations to improve the efficiency of policing.

Published 13 April 2023