DEVON and Cornwall Police has been assessed as ‘inadequate’ at investigating crime in a critical report that says not enough offenders are being brought to justice.

Police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez now says she will challenge its leaders to improve the poor outcome in such a critical function.

HM Inspectorate of Constabularies and Fire and Rescue Services says standards of investigations have deteriorated because of understaffed and inexperienced teams investigating serious offences, while the service ‘still has work to do’ in leadership and force management.

In a review of 66 cases, only 47 had an investigation plan, and some had ‘significant failings and victims had been let down’.

Inspectors had ‘serious concerns’ about how the force manages investigations.

Ms Hernandez welcomed the report saying the service is good at preventing crime, and noted that data since the inspection showed improved performance in other areas.

She continued: ‘The public must be confident that when they report crime, the evidence and information they supply is correctly recorded and used so perpetrators are brought to book and victims receive the justice they deserve.’

Despite record investment in policing in Devon and Cornwall, she said she would be challenging the force’s leadership to improve significantly.

In the report, Andy Cooke, HM chief inspector of constabulary, said he had ‘concerns about the performance of Devon and Cornwall police in keeping people safe, reducing crime, and providing victims with an effective service’.

However, the force hit back at some aspects of the report as they were based on historical data which does not accurately reflect improvements made.

Mr Cooke said: ’Since our previous inspection, the force has made significant efforts to improve in the areas we highlighted as causes of concern or areas of improvement.

‘However, despite those improvements, more is required to place the force in a position where it is consistently providing a good standard of service.’

Acting chief constable Jim Colwell said: ‘I am pleased the Inspectorate has acknowledged the good work that goes on in our neighbourhood teams every day, which is a reflection on the hard work of our officers, staff and volunteers.

‘We are committed to delivering community policing with competence, compassion and common sense, which is why we remain the second safest force area in the country.’

Ms Hernandez added: ‘It is extremely disappointing the force is letting too many victims down, whether with poor response times or a delayed investigation.’

Mr Cooke said the force has understaffed and inexperienced teams investigating serious offences.

There are delays in crime allocation and supervision, with many investigations lacking a detailed investigation plan or effective supervision.

Acting chief constable Colwell added: ‘I fully acknowledge we still have work to do to ensure our investigations are completed to the high standards that the public would expect of us.’

Instability at the top the force may also have been a factor in the outcomes of the report, with chief constable Will Kerr remaining suspended after more than a year.