British police are recording minor misdemeanours such as throwing a sock and “stealing” one spray from a bottle of perfume as crimes, contributing to surge in the country’s official crime rate.
Due to government instruction that police must now record all complaints from the public, forces are having to record minor incidents as assault and small accidents as criminal damage.
In one example, Hampshire Police had to record a theft when a teenage girl sprayed herself with her mother’s perfume following an argument.
Simon Hayes, who serves as the county’s elected Police and Crime Commissioner, told The Times: “The officers were never going to be able to prove whether or not the daughter did help herself to the perfume. So the crime also remains unsolved. That’s the bizarre nature of the counting regulations.”
In another incident in London, a fight between teenage brothers in which one threw a piece of toast was recorded as assault, while a crushed packet of crisps in a convenience store was counted as criminal damage.
Assaults had also been recorded where a man threw a sock at his mother, and where someone threw a sausage roll from a car.
The new, strict rules for recording crimes were brought in following revelations crime statistics were being manipulated to meet targets. Jeff Farrar, the lead for statistics on the National Police Chiefs Council, said: “Officers previously would have used their common sense, whereas now they are just put into the system.”
Mr Hayes called for the rules to change to allow police to use their discretion again when deciding whether to record a crime.
“This is placing an unnecessary burden of bureaucracy on the police at a time when resources are tight and they need to concentrate on the more serious issues.
“One of the great things about the British bobby was that they had discretion to use their wisdom and experience.
“That is slowly being flushed away and they are recording matters they don’t even think are crime.”
According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of violent incidents across the country rose by 100,000 in 2014/15 compared to the previous year. There was also a 19 per cent rise in public order offences across England and Wales in the same period.