What can you do if the police refuse to investigate a crime?

It’s a sad indictment of modern law enforcement when there is a need for an article entitled: “What can you do if the police refuse to investigate a crime?” but when you consider that half of all crime in the UK goes unreported, it’s reasonable to suggest that at least 50% of the population already know what I’m talking about.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the police have become highly selective of the types of crime they are willing to devote their allegedly scant resources too. Particularly where they believe those crimes will require considerable effort and skill to resolve. They blame this inaction squarely on government cuts, despite figures released by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) that shows there has only been a 6% decrease in frontline police numbers since 2010. Also with the introduction of the Fraud Act in 2006, the police have effectively been given the green light to sweep the biggest growing category of crime in the UK – Fraud – directly under the carpet. That carpet being the Action Fraud website, where all low level reports of fraud go to die.

So what do you do when you have evidence a crime has been committed but the police refuse to record or investigate it?

Well, you could complain or appeal through various different channels, such as the police complaints process, or maybe even by enlisting the help of your local MP.

You could prepare an evidence file, to help the police along their way, and send a copy of it to a senior police officer asking them to reconsider.

You could wait a few weeks, dial 101 and report the same crime again.  

Or you could reclassify and amend your allegations so they contain elements of the type of offences that are politically fashionable among law enforcement. Such as harassment, hate crime, domestic abuse and hurt feelings.

The truth is, whenever I am asked the million dollar question of ‘how can I get the police to act’, I am reluctant to describe any of the methods I have just highlighted. Instead, I respond with:
“Why bother?”

There is an obvious downside to bulldozing the police into investigating something they have shown little prior interest in tackling: and that is ultimately, you will be assigned the same lazy and indifferent officer that dismissed you in the first place. Or at least one with a similar attitude. Only now they will investigate your allegations begrudgingly. And not only will they do as little as possible to gather evidence or locate a suspect, they will scupper the investigation first chance they get, to punish you for daring to complain about them in the first place!
And if you think further complaining about their tardiness will get you anywhere, it won’t. Because once the police ‘conclude’ their investigations, there is no ombudsman, tribunal or commission in the land that will reopen the case and take an independent peek at the officer’s efforts to see just how good or bad a job they did. Once the police decide to scrap or sabotage an investigation, it’s over. And in all likelihood you will have to obtain a court order to get a copy of the police files to find out what little they actually did.

If a job’s worth doing…
It’s at this point I suggest to victims that they cut out the middle man and consider investigating and prosecuting the offender themselves. We all have a right to bring a private criminal prosecution in this country, not just the police. When I suggest this I’m usually greeted with the same response:
“Why should I have to do it myself, when it’s the police’s job?”

Well, firstly, having a police constable investigate anything except the most straightforward of offences is about as bad a choice of investigator you can make. It may surprise you to know that Police Constables are totally unskilled in the art of investigation. Process is all they know. They know what to write in their notebooks, how to take down a statement, what rights to read and what offence to charge someone with. But they have no formal training in detection, or finding evidence, or following leads or chasing suspects.

Secondly, the police have no significantly greater resources than you or I do to locate a suspect. Yes they have access to the Police National Computer, which will easily cross reference partial names, descriptions, addresses and other tidbits of information that may identify a suspect. But do you honestly believe that low ranking police officers are given unrestricted access to the PNC to exploit it in this way? Not a chance.

It’s true also, that the police can obtain phone records, bank statements, CCTV evidence, licence plate information, criminal records and a host of other personal data with relative ease. But anyone can obtain an order from the court compelling a phone company, bank or private institution to surrender necessary records if they can demonstrate the need for it in ongoing criminal or civil proceedings. You could even get access to records held on the Police National Computer. For instance, did you know that if you are the victim of a road traffic offence and intend to prosecute the offender, the DVLA are obliged to furnish you with the name and address behind the registration number of the offending vehicle?

Although only the police can obtain and execute a criminal search warrant, that does not mean they are the only ones who can apply for search warrants. If you can convince a court that evidence or stolen items are being stored at a certain location, then you could obtain a civil search warrant. You won’t be kicking in doors, or making arrests, but you will still be given powers to enter property to seize any items relating to that search. This is an application that would have to be made to a county court however, under process of civil action, not criminal.
For more information on this subject, I would urge you to obtain the short DIY Guide I have written “How to Prosecute Criminals When the Police Won’t” which reveals just how easy it is to bring an offender before a criminal court without any legal training.

Do it yourself
No matter how the police respond to low level crime, nothing they can do by way of investigation, nobody would pursue the matter as earnestly as the victim who suffered the injustice.

Not every pursuit of an offender necessarily involves bringing that person to court. Did you know, for instance, that you have a common law right to enter another’s property by force to reclaim items that have been stolen from you? The police would of course attempt to dissuade anyone from reclaiming stolen property in this way. After all, nobody likes to be upstaged by someone who can do their job better than they can, because as far as the police are concerned, if they’re not going to do it, they don’t want you doing it either.

Of course, going after a criminal yourself takes fortitude and guts. It also takes time. If you are lacking in those resources, doing the police’s job for them is never going to appeal, no matter how attractively I dress it up. Therefore you are left with two options:

Either you apply pressure and coercion to the police via the various limited administrative means available or, quite simply, you allow the police to fob you off and do nothing. My remedy to this dilemma is cut out the middle man and do the police’s job for them. After all I’m a great believer in the old saying: If you want a job done properly, then do it yourself. Even when it comes to matters of law enforcement.