Fewer ‘wipe slate clean’ crime confessions as targets change

THE number of extra offences that criminals are confessing to after being convicted has dropped dramatically in the region owing to a change in Government targets, police say.

Many fewer crimes were admitted last year than in previous years by offenders wanting to wipe the slate clean and avoid future prosecutions, where the offences are said to have been “taken into consideration”.

Figures released to the Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act show that criminals admitted thousands more offences each year between 2005 and 2007 than they did just a few years earlier.

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The high numbers of cases across the country prompted concerns that officers were encouraging offenders to admit extra crimes with inducements in a bid to boost their “detection” rates. But since then, the number of “TICs” has dropped sharply as other measures were introduced to determine how well forces are performing. In West Yorkshire, the rate last year was less than half that of 2005.

Colin Andrews, business manager for Humberside Police’s criminal justice unit, said the use of TICs brought benefits to the victim and offenders and are subject to rules about how they are used.

He said: “Previously the force was being looked at very carefully for performance. In 2005 we were being looked at by the Home Office as there were fears we weren’t performing so we wanted to get detections. It was seen as a priority so we put more effort into it.”

He said his force was now being judged on other “outcomes” as a guide to how it was performing and was no longer simply judged on the number of crimes solved.

He said: “The Government has woken up to the fact that it is more appropriate to do it this way. They have recognised that we need to be given credit for dealing with things in a common sense way.

“Although TICs are important they are not as important as when we were chasing performance figures in 2005.”

Criminals are allowed to have other offences taken into consideration when a court is making decisions about sentencing or compensation awards.

The police ask all offenders if they want to admit other crimes when they are charging them with an offence.

Many offenders do confess to other crimes because they want to “wipe the slate clean” and don’t want to risk being pursued for other offences later on.

In recent years police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has carried out various inquiries into allegations police encouraged suspects to admit crimes by offering them inducements.

In South Yorkshire, the number of offences taken into consideration rose from 2,563 in 2003 to 7,393 in 2008, before dropping every year until 2012, when only 4,098 offences were detected in this way.

Police in the county had one of the highest rates in the country for offences taken into consideration, with the 4,098 TICs last year making up more than 16 per cent of all crimes solved. At its height in 2008 the rate was 19.5 per cent.

The pattern was the same in Humberside, with TICs rising steadily from 1,461 to 2,601 between 2003 and 2007 before falling to 921 in 2010.

Last year 1,143 offences were classed as TIC out of 19,646 offences detected, meaning they made up 5.8 per cent of all cases solved. In 2007, when the highest number of cases were being taken into consideration, the rate was 8.4 per cent.

The use of TICs by West Yorkshire Police rose from 5,085 in 2003 to its peak of 12,119 in 2005 before dropping every year to just 5,509 in 2012.

Neil Bowles of South Yorkshire’s Police Federation, said: “TICs were a performance measure in the middle 2000s handed down by the Home Office to all forces. The resources were driven to get more TICs.

“Now the Coalition government has come in and has supposedly got rid of these targets the priority is not there any more. If you have a target you direct resources to achieve that target. Once it is not a target it is not so important.”