Statistics watchdog deems police crime data ‘unreliable’
Police recorded crime figures have been declared unreliable, in an unusual judgment from the National Statistics Authority.
“There is accumulating evidence that suggests underlying data on crimes recorded by the police may not be reliable,” the National Statistics Authority has stated in a report.
The report questions how well police forces have complied with standards in gathering the data and has, in official jargon, removed the crime statistics for England and Wales from their designation as “national statistics” until a series of checks and quality assurance work is carried out.
This follows claims from several current and former officers that police forces were routinely manipulating crime figures.
A Metropolitan Police whistle-blower Constable James Patrick told a committee of MPs in November 2013 that certain crimes such as burglary and rape were regularly downgraded and in effect removed from the books.
He claimed “as many as 300 burglaries would disappear within a couple of weeks,” and that other types of crime were under-recorded.
Others blamed the pressure of targets for massaging the numbers.
This is a body blow for both police and ministers.
These figures have been the foundations for so many public proclamations and are supposed to provide the evidence for whether policies and practices are effective or not.
The report affects both police and politicians, including the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice, Police and Crime Commissioners and Parliament itself.
What are the public to believe now when senior officers and government proclaim crime is going down?
The Office of National Statistics produce the crime statistics every quarter, but the Home Office is responsible for collecting and validating the underlying data from police forces.
The National Statistics Authority have set out 16 requirements for the police and Home Office to bring the data quality of crime figures up to scratch.
“We are very disappointed in the move made today by the UK Statistics Authority to remove the National Statistics designation,” said National Policing Lead on Crime Statistics, Chief Constable Jeff Farrar, responding to the report.
Mr Farrar claimed: “it comes at a time when the service is seeking to make crime stats more transparent, more accountable and assure the public of both the figures’ accuracy and their integrity.”
“Our work on improving the production of stats will go on regardless of today’s decision, and we hope to see the National Statistics designation restored very shortly,” Mr Farrar said.
Channel 4 News has also asked the Home Office for comment, and we will update when we receive their response.
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