The police force which investigated the murder of schoolgirl Kayleigh Haywood has come under fire for failing to record more than 21,000 crimes a year, including offences of rape and grooming.
A report issued by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services revealed that Leicestershire Police failed to record more than 21,000 crimes in a year, including rapes, domestic violence and serious assaults. Reports of children being groomed online were also not officially logged as recorded crimes.
Based on analysis of six months of crime data, it is estimated the force does not record an estimated 7,900 reports of violent crime and 400 sexual offences a year.
The police force inspection body said that criminals were going free and victims were not receiving the support they needed as a result of the failings.
The shock figures have put the force in the spotlight, following the high profile grooming and murder of Measham schoolgirl Kayleigh Haywood which was successfully investigated by Leicestershire Police.
In November 2015, the 15-year-old Ashby School pupil was groomed online by 28-year-old Luke Harlow – a man she had never met. Over the course of next 13 days, he sent the teenager more than 100 messages a day before she finally agreed to spend the night at his house in Ibstock.
The tragic and horrific circumstances that followed saw her being held against her will by Harlow and his 29-year-old neighbour Stephen Beadman, who later raped and killed her.
The damning report has resulted in the inspectors calling on the force to make immediate improvements after it examined the way it had recorded offences reported to it in the six months between August last year and January this year.
Overall, it said, the force did not officially log 24 per cent of offences, including 34 per cent of violent crimes and approximately 20 per cent of sexual offences.
It said some of the cases brought to the force's attention were not investigated "with little rationale as to explain why".
HM inspector of Constabulary Zoe Billingham said: "It is of very great concern to me that Leicestershire Police is failing to record almost one in four crimes reported to it.
"We estimate the force fails to record 21,200 reported crimes each year, including reports from victims of crimes of a sexual nature, and of violence.
"Although safeguarding measures were in place for many of the victims of crimes, there was little evidence of investigations being undertaken where the crime had not made it on to the books.
"This is particularly true for cases of domestic abuse. I am especially disappointed to find that a third of reported violent crimes are not properly recorded.
"This is of serious concern as it can prevent victims receiving the support they need and deserve, and prevent offenders being brought to justice.
"The importance of correctly recording crime cannot be overlooked, or simply passed off as a bureaucratic measure.
"If a force does not correctly record crime it cannot properly understand the demand on its services, nor provide support to those who need it most. Vast improvement is needed.
"We have made a number of recommendations to help the force improve. I am encouraged by the fact the force has immediately taken steps to address our concerns. I will carry out a re-inspection in 2018 to assess progress."
In a statement, the force said: "We note the report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services about crime data integrity in Leicestershire and the conclusions it reaches, which are consistent with half of the forces it has inspected to date.
"We acknowledge there are areas we need to improve upon, and are taking steps to address these administrative shortfalls."
The Leicestershire force said it has made budget savings and cuts of more than £38 million and lost 547 officers since 2009. Now, about 1,800 officers serve the counties, whereas at its height, in 2009, the force employed about 2,300 officers.