The Police Service of Northern Ireland: An inspection of crime data integrity

Published on: 1 May 2024

Overall judgment

Our judgment

Our inspection assessed the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s crime data integrity. We make one graded judgment as follows:

The Police Service of Northern Ireland’s crime data integrity is good.

In the rest of this report we set out our detailed findings about things the service is doing well and where it should improve.


About us

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) independently assesses the effectiveness and efficiency of police forces and fire and rescue services to make communities safer.

In preparing our reports, we ask the questions that the public would ask, and publish the answers in accessible form. We use our expertise to interpret the evidence and make recommendations for improvement.

Our commission

Section 41(2) of The Police (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 (‘the Act’) requires us to inspect and report to the Department of Justice (Northern Ireland) on the efficiency and effectiveness of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (‘the PSNI’ or ‘the service’) each year.

In accordance with the Act, in 2023 we were commissioned to inspect the service. We were asked specifically to focus on crime data integrity.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland

There is still a significant divide between communities in Northern Ireland, most often based on political opinion and religious belief. PSNI personnel continue to be under threat from terrorist groups. In some communities in Northern Ireland the PSNI isn’t welcome, and many people are unwilling to communicate with the service for fear of reprisals. This could adversely affect the number of people willing to report crime to the police. That means that crime-recording comparisons can’t necessarily be drawn with forces in England and Wales.

In March 2023, the terrorism threat level in Northern Ireland was raised from substantial to severe. This means an attack is highly likely. The decision followed a rise in dissident republican activity, including an attack on a PSNI police officer in February 2023. It reverses the downgrade in Northern Ireland’s threat level in March 2022, which had been its first change for 12 years.

Our terms of reference

Our terms of reference were to inspect and report on:

  • How well does the PSNI apply the standards for crime recording laid down by the Home Office, known as the Crime Recording Rules?
  • How does leadership, culture and behaviour in the PSNI affect crime recording?
  • How accurately does the PSNI record reported crimes that cause significant harm, such as crimes of violence, rape and other sexual offences, crimes against vulnerable victims, and crimes relating to antisocial behaviour?
  • How appropriate are police decisions to cancel crimes of rape?


Our inspection took place between November 2023 and January 2024. We carried out a crime data integrity audit and undertook fieldwork.

For the audit aspect of the inspection, we adopted a similar methodology to our inspections of police forces in England and Wales. The fieldwork followed the methodology used in the crime data integrity inspections of forces in England and Wales between 2016 and 2020.

Our audit included a review of:

  • a selection of calls for service, incident records and crime reports from 1 June 2023 to 31 August 2023, including listening to the original calls for service received by the PSNI;
  • the timeliness of crime recording and finalisation;
  • specific types of crime, including rape, violent offences, domestic abuse, sexual offences and antisocial behaviour;
  • the use of the N100 classification for incidents of rape; and
  • crimes against vulnerable victims.

We interviewed the chief officer lead for crime data, the service crime registrar and department leads for different parts of the crime-recording process. We also ran focus groups with frontline officers and their supervisors, contact management centre personnel, contact management support unit staff and the occurrence case management team.

Terminology in this report

Our reports contain references to, among other things, ‘national’ definitions, priorities, policies, systems, responsibilities and processes.

In some instances, ‘national’ means applying to England and Wales. In others, it means applying to England, Wales and Scotland, or the whole of the United Kingdom.

HM Inspector’s observations

I am pleased with the performance of the PSNI in recording reported crime.

Although we have identified some areas where improvements can be made, the service has maintained the high standards we found when we last inspected crime data integrity in 2015.

Lee Freeman KPM

His Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary

Summary of inspection findings

We examined crime reports from 1 June 2023 to 31 August 2023. Based on this, we estimate that the service records 96.2 percent (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.1 percent) of crimes reported to it.

We found the service:

  • has maintained its crime-recording accuracy since our 2015 report;
  • effectively audits, reviews and monitors crime reports and incident records;
  • has processes in place for reclassification and cancellation of crimes;
  • has trained all frontline officers and staff in crime recording; and
  • has, since our last crime data integrity inspection, established the dedicated post of service crime registrar.

The service crime registrar is responsible for overseeing and auditing crime-recording requirements. They are supported by a deputy service crime registrar. They have both completed the College of Policing national training course for force crime registrars and are fully accredited for their roles.

Despite these advances, the service needs to improve in the areas detailed below.

Areas for improvement

Areas for improvement

The service should improve its crime data integrity by:

  • improving its understanding, recording and classification of rape crimes and reported incidents of rape (N100s);
  • addressing gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all crimes relating to antisocial behaviour incidents;
  • putting in place arrangements for the transfer of crimes to other police forces;
  • complying with the Crime Recording Rules by making sure that crime is recorded with a crime number on the service crime system without delay, and in any case within 24 hours of the time of the initial report;
  • training more dedicated decision-makers to allow more timely reclassification of crimes; and
  • assessing what protected characteristics information it should collect for victims of crime and improve how it collects and analyses equality data through its crime reporting and recording systems.

How effective is the service at recording reported crime?

The importance of crime recording

It is important that police forces and services have high-quality data that allows them to establish where, when and how often crime is happening.

This makes sure:

  • victims of crime are given access to appropriate support services;
  • the public are given accurate information about crime in their area; and
  • the police can plan their work in support of victims and meet the demands of investigations.

The crime-recording process

Crimes reported to the police must be recorded in accordance with the Crime Recording Rules published by the Home Office. These rules aim to promote accurate and consistent crime recording between police forces.

The Crime Recording Rules also have a victim-focused approach. This means that a belief by a victim, or someone reasonably assumed to be acting on behalf of the victim, that a crime has occurred is usually sufficient to justify its recording.

Incidents reported to the police relate to issues including public safety and welfare, crime, antisocial behaviour and transport. There are many ways that incidents can be reported to the police.

  • Witnesses or other third parties can tell a police officer or member of staff either on the street or at the front counter of a police station.
  • Witnesses or other third parties may report incidents by telephone to police control rooms.
  • Witnesses or other third parties may report an incident online.
  • The police may discover the crime themselves.
  • Other agencies, such as social services, may refer them. It is also possible that other agencies will refer an incident that is clearly a crime.

The Crime Recording Rules require that “all reports of incidents, whether from victims, witnesses or third parties and whether crime related or not, will result in the registration of an auditable incident report by the police”. In practice, this means:

  • an incident log (sometimes referred to as a command and control log); and/or
  • some other auditable or accessible means.

We carried out an audit of the PSNI’s crime records and incident logs. These are our findings.

Overall crime-recording rate

96.2 percent of reported crimes were recorded

We last inspected the service against crime data integrity in 2015. In that inspection, we found a crime-recording accuracy of 97 percent (+/- 2 percent). The service has maintained its accuracy of crime recording in accordance with the rules.

We examined reports of crime that the service received, and for which it had created an auditable record. The service told us that 90.7 percent of crime it records (excluding fraud) comes through an auditable route. This doesn’t mean that 90.7 percent of crime reported to the PSNI comes through these routes, but that 90.7 percent of crime is recorded this way.

We found that the service recorded 96.2 percent of these crimes (with a confidence interval of +/- 2.1 percent).

We found that the PSNI’s quality assurance and oversight of crime-recording processes were effective, but it needs to improve efficiency. In our 2023 PSNI inspection report, we commented on a resistance to adopt innovative solutions to improve efficiency and build capacity. We found examples of inefficiency during this inspection. For instance, the contact management centre doesn’t routinely record crime at the first point of contact. This means frontline officers are often deployed to obtain crime details that could already have been taken on the phone. Then, officers must phone the contact management support unit to record the crime. The service should make this process much more efficient.

In most cases where the service didn’t record reported crimes, we found this was because officers and staff didn’t always recognise a crime had been committed. For example, following some incidents of domestic abuse and online abuse, officers lacked understanding about what crimes should be recorded.

Of the 408 reports of crime we audited, we assessed 94 as being related to domestic abuse. Of these, the service had recorded 87. The seven offences not recorded were:

  • four violent crimes, including stalking, harassment and domestic abuse;
  • two sexual offences, including one crime of rape (although the victim didn’t want the police to deal with it); and
  • one criminal damage.

Violent crimes

95.2 percent of reported violent crimes were recorded

We found that 95.2 percent of violent crimes reported to the service were recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 4.1 percent).

We were pleased to see, in nearly all cases, the service recorded violent crime correctly. The small number of violent crimes not recorded were the domestic abuse crimes mentioned above and an additional crime of stalking.

Victims of violent crime often need a lot of support. This should come from the service and other appropriate agencies, such as Victim Support NI. In these circumstances, crime recording is even more important. If the service fails to record a violent crime properly it can mean victims aren’t referred to Victim Support NI. This may mean that victims don’t receive appropriate support.

Sexual offences

97.1 percent of reported sexual offences were recorded

We found that 97.1 percent of sexual offence crimes (including rape) reported to the service were recorded (with a confidence interval of +/- 3.0 percent). This is a high standard of crime-recording accuracy, although we did find some reports where the service hadn’t correctly recorded and classified some crimes as rape.

This recording rate shows the close attention the service gives to reports of sexual offences. In the majority of cases, it makes sure victims receive the service and support they need. This is welcome and is particularly important as many of these crimes are very serious in nature and cause significant harm to their victims.


46 out of 51 audited rape reports were accurately recorded

Rape is one of the most serious crimes a victim can experience, so it is especially important that reports of rape are recorded accurately. This helps to make sure victims receive the service and support they deserve. And it helps the police identify the nature and extent of sexual violence in their local area.

We found 51 reports of rape that the service should have recorded. But it had correctly recorded only 46 of these. Of the other five:

  • two were incorrectly recorded as other sexual offences;
  • two were wrongly recorded as incidents (not crimes) of rape (N100 classification); and
  • one wasn’t recorded at all.

In April 2015, the Home Office classification N100 was introduced. Its purpose is to explain why reported incidents of rape or attempted rape, whether they are reported by victims, witnesses or third parties, haven’t immediately been recorded as a confirmed crime. This can include instances where the victim of the rape doesn’t confirm what has happened, where credible evidence to the contrary exists or where the rape took place in another police area and was transferred to the relevant force to record and investigate.

We found three incident reports for which the service should have applied an N100 classification. It did so on two occasions but failed on one occasion to record a report of rape that took place abroad. We also found that the service had recorded two rape crimes but it should have recorded them as N100s. These crimes were cancelled but should never have been recorded as rape crimes in the first place.

We reviewed 20 sample records where the service had applied an N100 classification. We found it had correctly recorded 18. The two incorrect records should have been recorded at the outset as crimes of rape.

We reviewed 13 crimes of rape that had been cancelled by the service crime registrar. We were pleased to find all were cancelled correctly.

The PSNI should improve how it records and classifies reports of rape to make sure that either a crime of rape or a reported incident of rape (N100) is correctly recorded.

Vulnerable victims

70 out of 74 vulnerable victim crimes were recorded

For vulnerable victims to get the support they need it is important that crimes reported directly to the public protection branch, and the cases they deal with, always have the correct crimes recorded.

We examined 25 vulnerable victim adult cases and 25 child protection cases. We found that the service should have recorded 58 crimes, of which it had recorded 54.

The four unrecorded crimes were:

  • one crime of sexual assault; and
  • two sexual assaults and one non-sexual assault, all arising from the same case.

In addition, we examined 20 email referrals from professional third parties. We found 16 crimes were reported and the service had correctly recorded all of them.

We were pleased with the way the PSNI identifies crimes involving vulnerable victims.

Antisocial behaviour

Antisocial behaviour can affect whole communities. When targeted at individual people, who may be vulnerable, antisocial behaviour can have a lasting effect on their lives. Often victims live in fear behind their front doors while neighbours or gangs intimidate and harass them. The police must understand how antisocial behaviour affects victims. When behaviour becomes criminal, the police should intervene, help those victims experiencing abuse and bring offenders to justice.

We examined how well the PSNI recorded crimes from reports of antisocial behaviour incidents deliberately targeting an individual. This is known as antisocial behaviour personal. It occurs when an incident causes concern or stress and may adversely affect an individual’s quality of life by, for example, intimidation or harassment.

We examined 50 incidents that the PSNI had closed under the category of antisocial behaviour personal to check that all crimes reported had been recorded correctly. We found that 20 crimes should have been recorded, of which 15 had been correctly recorded.

The five unrecorded crimes were all crimes of harassment. They were:

  • three crimes where neighbours were intimidating and harassing victims – of these, one victim was vulnerable due to a developmental disability, one described being “petrified” and one felt unsafe in their own home;
  • a crime where a family was being victimised by local children for being foreign nationals; and
  • a crime where a group of vulnerable victims were frequently receiving nuisance telephone calls.

The service needs to take steps to identify and address gaps in its systems and processes for identifying and recording all crimes relating to antisocial behaviour incidents.

How well does the service demonstrate the leadership and culture necessary to meet the national standards for crime recording?


In England and Wales, each force has a crime registrar who is responsible for overseeing compliance with the crime-recording process. They must pass the College of Policing’s national training course within 12 months of their appointment.

The registrar’s responsibilities include:

  • making sure the force consistently applies the National Crime Recording Standard and the Crime Recording Rules;
  • being the final arbiter on whether a crime should be recorded or cancelled in any audit processes; and
  • providing training to officers and staff to make sure they understand the crime-recording process.

The force crime registrar must be outside operational line command and answerable to a designated chief officer.

The PSNI has a service crime registrar. They have attended the College of Policing’s national training course. They report to the deputy chief constable, who is the appointed lead for crime data.

The PSNI has produced a crime recording statement, which aims to make sure officers and staff comply with the Crime Recording Rules. During our inspection, many personnel told us that they consider the service crime registrar to be the expert in relation to the Crime Recording Rules. In fact, most thought the service crime registrar was the lead for crime data and for setting standards for crime recording.

Our view is that crime recording tends to run well because of the service crime registrar’s expertise. Increased involvement at chief officer level would signify the importance of crime recording to officers and staff and encourage the service to make the improvements we have identified.

Governance and accountability

External accountability

Like forces in England and Wales, the PSNI follows the Crime Recording Rules, but it isn’t required to provide crime-recording statistics to the Home Office.

In Northern Ireland, independent oversight of the PSNI is provided by the Northern Ireland Policing Board (NIPB). The NIPB monitors trends and patterns across a range of areas, including crime recording. The NIPB is made up of political representatives and independent members. During our inspection, we spoke with members of the NIPB responsible for the scrutiny of the PSNI’s crime data.

The NIPB uses information provided by the PSNI, crime data integrity audit results and findings from our inspections to provide independent oversight of the service. The internal audit results are provided by the PSNI’s statistics branch. The statistics branch is made up of personnel from the PSNI, supported by seconded staff from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, and has an important role in the validating and publishing crime data. Having personnel who are independent of the PSNI involved in that process provides a greater degree of confidence in the information reported.

A comparison with previous years’ crime rates and comparing the PSNI’s performance against similar police forces in England and Wales provides further accountability. The NIPB members we spoke with felt that these comparisons are helpful but could be improved by using data from forces more closely aligned with the PSNI.

We don’t disagree with this view but the political and social context in which the PSNI operates means it is difficult to find forces that are more similar in England and Wales.

Internal accountability

The PSNI has a service performance board chaired by the deputy chief constable. The purpose of the board is to review a broad range of functions to make sure they are operating effectively. Meetings are held monthly and department heads attend to update on their operational areas. The service crime registrar attends the meeting and presents findings from the crime data audits. Each quarter, a thematic area is selected for closer scrutiny. In March 2024, in anticipation of our inspection findings, crime data integrity had been selected.

There is no meeting solely focused on crime-recording standards. We think this is a shortcoming. Introducing such a meeting or making sure crime recording is a regular agenda item within the service performance board would improve the service’s understanding of crime recording and the standards required.

Setting standards for crime recording

The service crime registrar sets the standards and provides direction to the workforce about crime-recording responsibilities. They have strong links with their counterparts in the northwest region of England, which helps to develop good practice. We found the service crime registrar hasn’t yet had the opportunity to attend the annual National Force/Service Crime Registrar’s Conference. We would encourage the PSNI to be represented at this conference.

The service crime registrar has quarterly meetings with several teams involved in the management of crime, including the occurrence case management team. This team is responsible for classifying all reports of crime to the National Crime Recording Standard. It screens all requests for crime cancellation and reclassification before they are sent to the service crime registrar for a decision. The team also reviews incident reports that may require a recorded crime.

The service crime registrar has developed an awareness campaign for officers and staff, called Record for Victims, to improve understanding of the importance of correctly recording crime to provide better support to victims. In addition, the service crime registrar:

  • has developed online mandatory training packages for the workforce;
  • has designed and presented face-to-face training for call handlers, dispatchers, the telephone resolution team, new recruits and supervisors;
  • reviews the training syllabus annually to make sure it reflects new legislation;
  • sends email updates and provides online updates for supervisors about changes to the Crime Recording Rules; and
  • circulates information about crime-recording trends found in audits.

Performance pressure and the impact on crime recording

During our inspection, we were told on several occasions that performance pressure can affect crime recording. Some officers told us that officer appraisals are partly based on crime outcomes, which can lead to a reluctance to record crime where there is little chance of it being detected. For instance, low-level harassment doesn’t always result in a crime being recorded. But frontline officers and supervisors told us this doesn’t affect crime-recording decisions.

As we set out in our section on antisocial behaviour, our audit of 50 incidents of antisocial behaviour personal found that 20 crimes should have been recorded but only 15 had been. There were five crimes of harassment that hadn’t been recorded.

Our audit also found 94 reported crimes related to domestic abuse; of these, the service had recorded 87. Three of the offences not recorded were stalking, harassment and a domestic abuse crime. An additional crime of stalking hadn’t been recorded properly under violent crime.

In the past, several forces in England and Wales accepted that undue performance pressure had adversely affected crime recording, and the culture of ‘chasing targets’ had distorted crime-recording decisions. In our inspection, we found little evidence of performance pressure leading to improper crime-recording practices. The service needs to make sure any future pressures don’t influence current good practices.

Audit, review and monitoring

We were pleased to see the extent to which the PSNI carries out internal audits and reviews of crime-recording performance. We comment on this in more detail in the next chapter of this report.

How efficiently do the service’s systems and processes support accurate crime recording?

Crime recording

The PSNI’s crime recording statement aims to make sure officers and staff comply with the Crime Recording Rules. These rules are detailed and set out when and how a crime should be recorded.

Methods of reporting crime

As we mentioned in our section on the crime-recording process, crime can be reported in a variety of ways. For instance, by telephone to the PSNI’s contact management centre, in person at a police station and online through the PSNI’s website. Teams within the public protection branch may also receive emails from partner agencies, such as social services, with information that forms the basis of a crime report.

The service receives between 150 and 200 online crime reports each week from members of the public. The reports are received in the contact management centre, which operates 24 hours a day. These reports are reviewed and recorded as crimes, or incidents if not crime-related.

Personnel in the contact management centre and occurrence case management team have been trained to record reports from third parties (individuals acting on behalf of victims), and guidance relating to third-party reporting has been produced for all officers and staff involved in crime recording.

Transferring crimes to/from other police forces

The PSNI can also receive reports of crime from other police forces. In England and Wales, this is a common occurrence and most forces have processes in place for the transfer and receipt of crimes. We found the PSNI has a process for receiving crimes from other forces. But there is a lack of clarity about the process for transferring crimes from the PSNI to other forces. Some personnel told us that the investigating officer is responsible for transferring crimes, while others said the responsibility sits with the occurrence case management team or the central referral unit.

To maintain the accuracy of crime recording and make sure victims receive support, the service needs to develop a clear process for the transfer of crimes between forces.

Standards for crime reports

All public-facing officers and staff have received mandatory training in crime recording, which creates a common standard for crime reports. The service provides officers with a regular email update called Practical Peeler. This covers a wide range of topics, including crime-recording guidance and tips.

Quality assurance processes are in place to make sure accurate information is recorded and that incident closure codes are applied correctly.

Our audit suggests these measures are largely successful, with the service recording 96.2 percent of crimes reported.

Audit and review

The service is aware of the risks associated with poor crime-recording practices. It has an annual audit plan, created by the service crime registrar, which sets out the audit programme for crime recording. Additionally, we found a wide range of review and quality assurance activities intended to identify recording errors and improve crime‑recording accuracy.

The service:

  • reviews ten incidents a month for each member of staff in the occurrence case management team;
  • carries out monthly audits incorporating approximately 160 automated checks;
  • reviews all crime reports created by central referral unit staff;
  • carries out regular dip sampling of calls in the contact management centre;
  • uses a management information system to identify missing crime reports and those that require reclassification;
  • reviews 100–150 incidents a day to make sure crime reports have been submitted where needed; and
  • carries out monthly checks of antisocial behaviour and hate crime incidents to make sure appropriate action is taken.

The service uses the audit findings to scrutinise crime-recording performance. The results are presented at the service performance board.

While the service carries out many audits and reviews, there are opportunities to improve further. Often the errors identified through the audits are corrected by the service crime registrar’s team and individual feedback isn’t always provided to the officers concerned. This limits the opportunity for learning.

We were told that there is less oversight and scrutiny in the public protection branch than in other parts of the PSNI. Crimes may be reported directly to the public protection branch by other organisations such as social services. But there is no audit or service crime registrar oversight of its email system. This could lead to crimes being missed.


If the information provided at the first point of contact satisfies the standards set out in the Crime Recording Rules, the service should record those crimes straight away, and in any case within 24 hours.

Once the service has decided to record a crime, it needs to determine how many crimes to record and what offences have been committed.

During our inspection, we were consistently told that reports of crime were recorded on the crime-recording system within 24 hours. But the reports aren’t regarded as crimes until they are reviewed and classified by the occurrence case management team, which works office hours, Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm. Our audit and review found that, as a result, crimes could take several days to be classified. So the PSNI is actually only recording half of all crime within the 24 hours required.

We were encouraged to find that this delay doesn’t have a negative effect on investigations or victim satisfaction because officers can begin their enquiries and victim contact before finalising the crime. But this process builds in unnecessary delays in crimes being recorded. The service is aware of this and is considering options to reduce delays.

Crime cancellation and reclassification

The Crime Recording Rules outline five criteria for when crimes which are already recorded may be cancelled or transferred. These are:

  • crime committed outside the jurisdiction of the police force in which it was recorded – passed to that force;
  • additional verifiable information that determines that no notifiable crime occurred becomes available;
  • duplicate record or part of a crime already recorded;
  • crime recorded in error; or
  • self-defence claimed (for specific recorded assaults).

The PSNI has an established process for crime cancellations. Officers cannot cancel crimes themselves. Requests to cancel crimes must be submitted to the occurrence case management team with a supporting rationale. Once assessed, the occurrence case management team forwards the information to the service crime registrar’s team for a final decision. We were told the process is robust; officers explained they were often asked for additional information to support a cancellation request.

Some officers told us this is an overly bureaucratic and, on occasions, slow process. This is because a lot of detail is required to meet the cancellation criteria and only three people in the service are authorised to cancel crimes. This means, in some instances, officers would rather leave a crime incorrectly recorded than go through the time-consuming process to have it cancelled.

There is an argument that consistency of decision-making is better when fewer people are involved. But the service needs to make sure its processes are straightforward so that officers follow the cancellation process when appropriate.

The Crime Recording Rules detail that if further substantive information becomes known after a crime is recorded, or if the original classification is discovered to be incorrect, the service crime registrar may reclassify it, if it is considered appropriate to do so. Justification for the reclassification must be recorded within the crime record in an auditable form.

Officers told us that this is also a time-consuming process because only one person in the PSNI is authorised to reclassify crimes. Most forces in England and Wales have dedicated decision-makers who are trained to carry out this type of task. To improve the timeliness of this process, it would be helpful if the PSNI trained and authorised more dedicated decision-makers to reclassify crimes.

Crime outcomes

The Crime Recording Rules determine that all recorded crimes will be assigned one of 22 outcome types. It is important that outcome types are applied appropriately to give an accurate view of crime, but also to make sure all investigative opportunities are exploited, even without the co-operation of a victim.

In our 2023 inspection, we considered outcome 16 (outcome 20 in Northern Ireland) – when a suspect is identified but there are evidential difficulties and the victim doesn’t support, or withdraws their support for, police action. In such cases a record should be made of the victim’s decision.

During our 2023 inspection, in seven of nine relevant cases reviewed, we saw a record of the victim’s wishes. This means in these cases the victim’s wishes were fully represented and could be considered before the investigation was closed. When a victim doesn’t support, or withdraws their support for, police action, the service should consider progressing the case without their support. Generally, this is referred to as an evidence-led prosecution. This can provide a way to safeguard the victim and prevent further crimes from being committed, particularly in domestic abuse cases. Of the nine cases we reviewed, only one had a record showing that officers had considered progressing the case without the victim’s support. In the remaining eight cases, it wasn’t clear whether this had happened. We recommended the service should make sure it consistently records whether evidence-led prosecutions have been considered in all cases where the victim has withdrawn support. This will help it fully understand whether opportunities to protect a victim from future harm or bring offenders to justice have been missed.

During this inspection, officers and staff told us that a service direction was recently given to all personnel to make sure that victims in domestic abuse cases are asked questions about why they don’t support an investigation. Officers have to assure themselves that victims aren’t being coerced into disengaging with the police. We were pleased to find the service has acted on our recommendation.


The service has provided training, to varying extents, to all personnel involved in crime recording.

All public-facing officers and staff have completed mandatory training in crime recording.

The service has provided additional face-to-face training to some officers and staff. For instance, new recruits, newly promoted sergeants, call handlers, dispatchers, crime assessors and officers in specialist units.

Personnel told us that the service crime registrar has been integral to implementing the training. As recording and counting rules change, the service crime registrar has developed and reviewed the training package.

Members of the occurrence case management team have received role-specific training, supplemented by additional training from experienced colleagues and supervisors within the team.

Call handlers and those working in the contact management support unit have been trained to guide officers through the crime-recording process and have received additional training to identify crimes such as harassment.

The service provides new recruits with face-to-face crime-recording training. Officers with more experience don’t receive this structured training but instead are updated by their supervisors about the requirements of the Crime Recording Rules.

Our view is that the service provides a good level of training to make sure the workforce accurately records crime.


We found that the PSNI should improve the way it collects information about crimes affecting identifiable groups within communities.

Protected characteristics, such as gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, religion and age, don’t necessarily make someone more vulnerable to the risk of crime. But it is important that the service records information about victims’ characteristics. This helps to identify any patterns between different groups and how vulnerable they are to (or how likely they are to report) different types of crime.

The service routinely records the ages and genders of victims but doesn’t always record information about other protected characteristics. The PSNI crime reports contain fields to record information about protected characteristics, but these aren’t mandatory and officers often choose not to complete them. We found a lack of awareness of the benefits of recording these details. Many officers only provide this information if prompted by the contact management support unit.

We were told that the service had recently noticed a reduction in the recording of ethnicity within hate crime reports. This means wider analysis couldn’t be undertaken to identify patterns. The service took action to address this. We were told there is now a 98 percent compliance rate with ethnicity recording for victims of racially motivated hate crimes.

While this is positive, hate crimes across other protected characteristics may be missed if the information isn’t included from the outset.

If the service fails to record information for relevant protected characteristics, it won’t be able to fully understand and respond to the effect of crime on identifiable groups in its communities. The service should assess what protected characteristics it needs to record.


Since our 2015 inspection, the PSNI has maintained its good crime-recording performance. It has well-established processes for recording crime and adhering to the Crime Recording Rules. Our audit of the service’s crime data shows that it is good at applying the relevant standards. Effective training is in place for officers and staff involved in crime recording.

The PSNI’s executive team is committed to good crime data integrity. This has made sure that victims receive the service they deserve and can access support and safeguarding where needed.

We are confident that the PSNI’s leadership and governance arrangements should help it to address the areas for improvement identified in this inspection.

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The Police Service of Northern Ireland: An inspection of crime data integrity