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Police fail to meet target for rape case inquiries

POLICE are exceeding their targets for catching speeding motorists but falling short in addressing rape, according to national figures leaked to The Herald.

This paper can reveal for the first time what the targets are for Police Scotland's first year as one national force, and where they are not being met - despite the refusal of the service to release the information under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The targets for 2013/14 include detecting 69,304 speeding offences, 34,194 seat belt offences and 31,918 mobile phone offences - all of which are on track to be significantly exceeded. In contrast, targets to ensure that 100% of all unsolved rape cases are subject to a follow-up inspection are being missed by 25%. The target to cut the number of petty assaults by 2% is also off track.

Scottish Labour spokesman and former senior officer Graeme Pearson said: "It is disturbing that the only way we can get this information into the public domain is through a whistle-blower. It's legitimate for the public to be able to access this information without difficulty. It used to be in the public domain and was published by the eight forces on a regular basis. I would be happy to forego the focus on speeders and let that drop a percentage to make sure the police give us 100% on group two crimes such as rape."

He added: "I would want greater scrutiny of key performance indicators (KPIs). Police Scotland should be prepared to change them to make them more relevant and appropriate to communities.

"The single national police force was supposed to be about greater local accountability, but what we have seen in the past nine months is a drive towards national units and more complaints from communities, particularly in the south of Scotland, that local communities are not seeing the same level of local policing they had in the past."

Other disclosed targets include ensuring that "15% or more of the total stop-and-searches conducted are positive" and decreasing the number of complaints regarding disorder by 3%.

Several targets for reducing violent crime - including a 3% reduction in serious assaults - are being met.

In a surprising move last month, the national force rejected an FOI request to reveal information about its controversial KPIs because they were under "discussion".

Although a target to ensure a minimum detection rate of 68% for rape is being met, making contact with 100% of victims within 24 hours is not.

It is thought that the targets were not released partly because they are to be amended following growing criticism.

The refusal followed warnings from frontline officers that a targets culture in Police Scotland was seriously damaging relations with the public and forcing officers to massage figures.

Police Scotland has consistently denied there is a policy of setting individual officer targets. The refusal letter to the FOI request states: "While there is a public interest in how the police measure their performance and aim to improve it, disclosure of the information while discussions are ongoing would tend to prejudice substantially those discussions."

David O'Connor, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said: "Target setting has its place in modern policing, but the emphasis needs to be on improving outcomes such as reducing crime and reducing road-traffic casualties rather than just on speeding."

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell said: "Having targets such as encouraging people to wear a seat-belt is important. But for other motoring offences such as speeding, there are examples where it would be more efficient to use a speed camera instead of having officers sitting in a patrol car at the side of the road. If there is an over-emphasis on, say, motor offences, there has to be a re-assessment in favour of more serious offences such as rape."

A spokeswoman for Police Scotland said: "Police Scotland continuously monitors performance to ensure we are delivering against the priorities set by communities; reducing violent crime, tackling domestic abuse and reducing road casualties. We are focused on keeping people safe and KPIs offer an effective framework to show what we are achieving."

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