Thursday, October 23, 2008

Jacqui's Fibs

As I'm sure you are aware, a big story this morning is how the police have, apparently, been 'undercounting' crime. The main charge is that a number of case of grievous bodily harm have been categorised as less serious assaults instead. The end result of this is that the most serious type of violent crime has gone up 22%.

Rather than take apart the statistics, which others have already done, I'd much rather look at what Jacqui Smith has said about the figures. In the same BBC article, she says:

"Let's be clear, this isn't crime that wasn't being recorded or wasn't being reported or wasn't being dealt with. It just wasn't being recorded in the category 'most serious violence'. "So all of this crime has been dealt with."

Hang on a minute. Even if the crimes were being 'dealt with' wouldn't their incorrect categorisation affect, say, how they were prosecuted? If someone is recorded as committing a minor assault, whereas it was in fact a case of grievous bodily harm, won't they then be prosecuted for committing a minor assault only? After all, if the CPS came back to the police disputing their opinion on what charge to use, surely the police would change the records to reflect the more serious charge? Have offenders received lighter sentences because of this recording error?

"It's just that I wanted to focus particularly on most serious violence and therefore we needed to be sure that everybody in terms of categorising it was categorising it in the same way, so that we'd be able to track whether or not all the things that we're putting into place are making a difference."

A rise of 22% would indicate that these things the government has been 'putting into place' are not working.

"What the statisticians are clear about is that the increases in the most serious forms of violence have actually in terms of numbers been more than counteracted by the decreases in less serious violence."

This says a lot about statistics. While it might be true that this rise in serious violent crime has been offset from a statistical point of view by a decrease in less serious crime, that misses the point. Apply such a statistical analysis to another situation; a hospital, for example. It would be like boasting that a particularly vicious cold was prevented from spreading, but that MRSA killed an extra ten people than it did the year before. It means that during a pub fight you are less likely to be punched in the head or shoved around a bit, but are more likely to have your eyes cut out and your face slashed off with a broken bottle. Wonderful.

3 comments:

dixon of dock green said...

I suspect the perpetrators, if arrested, were charged with the actual offence. The offences recorded by police for Home Office stats and the offences as charged are not synonymous because not all offences recorded will be charged (no arrests = no prosecution). In fact it is a cunning wheeze to record the more serious offence when someone is charged (cleared up crime) but the less serious offence when no arrest is made.

This is not about what the police did (or didn't) but about what they reported in response to Jacqui Smith's statistical demands. Her "guidance" to the police effectively controls the way the figures look rather than the true picture. The fact that her "guidance" was less than clear is apparent because 13 (thirteen - three more than ten) police services were unable to compute.

Jacqui Smith is not interested in the true picture of crime in Britain, but only in the way it looks for Labour. The figures are not just being massaged but dissected and re-assembled in the interest of party politics. How far the police services are unwilling or willing dupes in this charade I will leave to others to speculate.

The Raven said...

Thanks for your comments, and I take your point re: charging. Just to clarify, I wasn't trying to suggest bad conduct on the part of the police. Of course it may have occured, but I'm not in a position to state this as the truth. Like you my big concern is this 'guidance' word and, as is often the cast with the police, when they do go wrong it is usually because this guidance has been faulty.

dixon of dock green said...

I forgot to add that one of the problems is the politicisation of not just the Home Office but the police. Oborne addresses this completely in his article on Mandelson. Instead of Home Office statistics being effectively a product of an impartial civil service they become an integral part Labour's political propaganda machine.

Impartiality in the public service was always a very vulnerable quality dependent in large part on tradition and convention rather than regulation, and of course an innate sense of duty, integrity and responsibility on the part of most civil servants. New Labour saw this constitutional weakness and were able to destroy it with very little effort.

The New Labour revolution (for that is what it was, and is) overturned protocols and conventions proven for centuries, replacing them with a corrupt network of political outsiders who transformed government into party politics. The true scale of New Labour destruction will only be apparent when history judges, because, like those who suffered through the Nazi era, the status quo is difficult to challenge - more so in the repressive, intrusive and paranoid society being engineered by New Labour, the new fascists.

When New Labour wield repressive legislation and invoke the "majesty of the law" to cow people it is worth remembering that the Nazis did exactly the same thing. At the time their laws had to be obeyed too and thousands of "criminals" in the Nazi system would eventually become the innocent persecuted victims of history once that dreadful regime was destroyed.