Statistics Authority withdraws quality status from crime statistics

Written by Oz Flanagan - Features Editor on . Posted in News

The UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) has announced that they no longer believe that police recorded crime figures are robust enough to be designated as ‘National Statistics’. In an assessment report released today, they set out their criticisms and recommendations on the issue.

Their decision has been prompted by evidence given to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) in December last year that procedures used by the police for compiling statistics may be open to manipulation, and by earlier concerns raised by ONS and HMIC.

The Chief Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), Tom Winsor, told the committee: 'The fact is in anything that gets measured, once those who are being measured, whose performance are being measured, work out how the system works, there's an incentive, resisted by many, to manipulate the process as to make your own performance look good.'

This was followed earlier this month by evidence from Lord Stevens, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who told the Home Affairs Select Committee that:  'the biggest scandal that is coming our way is [the] recording of crime.' He went on to say: 'I think every single force should be subject to an independent investigation - a focused, lasered investigation into crime figures - both detection and recording of crime.'

The UKSA justified their decision by asserting that the figures do not comply with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. Specifically it stated: 'The ONS does not have sufficient knowledge of (and therefore does not publish enough information about) the processes involved in the recording of crime by police forces and the checks carried out on the data received from police forces, to be assured that they are accurately recorded.'

The UKSA report goes on to explain that the Authority cannot restore their confidence in the statistics: ‘until such time that ONS, working with the Home Office, HMIC or other appropriate bodies, is able to demonstrate that the quality of the underlying data, and the robustness of the ongoing audit and quality assurance procedures, are sufficient to support its production of statistics based on recorded crime data to a level of quality that meets users’ needs.’

The Authority did confirm that crime statistics which are based on sources other than police recorded crime and which are included in the relevant statistical bulletins will continue to be designated as National Statistics.

Police recorded crime figures are one of the two main ways in which levels of crime are currently calculated. The other measure is the Crime Survey for England and Wales which compiles respondents experiences of crime over the past 12 months. Peter Squires, a Professor of Criminology & Public Policy at the University of Brighton, contributed to our ‘Opinion’ section recently to explain the complex way in which crime is recorded in the UK using these two methods.

Social Sciences Public Administration Select Committee (PASC)

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