PASC sets out criticism of police-recorded crime statistics

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The Public Administration Select Committee has published a report following its inquiry into the quality of crime statistics. The report, 'Caught Redhanded: Why we can’t rely on Police Recorded Crime' is critical of the target-setting culture within the police force, and found that numerical targets drive perverse incentives to mis-record crime. It also found a 'lax compliance with the agreed national standard of victim-focused crime recording'.

The PASC inquiry was set up following an accumulation of substantial and credible evidence indicating that police-recorded crime data did not represent a full and accurate account of crime in England and Wales. The crime statistics based on the police recorded data were de-designated as a National Statistic by the UK Statistics Authority earlier this year. In its second assessment of crime statistics it gave a number of reasons for the de-designation, including accumulating evidence that suggests the underlying data on crimes recorded by the police may not be reliable, and concerns raised at the Public Administration and Home Affairs Select Committees.

The report is also critical of the Home Office, the Office of National Statistics and the UK Statistics Authority, saying they have been 'far too passive'. Although it commends the recent UKSA decision to remove National Statistic status it adds: 'this cannot mitigate what amounts to a long-standing failure of a number of bodies to address the thoroughness of the assessment of Police Recorded Crime, despite a series of previous reviews which identified shortcomings'.

In its recommendations, PASC says the Home Office should do more to discourage the use of targets and must take responsibility for the quality of police-recorded crime statistics. In addition, it says, senior police leaders should emphasise data integrity and accuracy rather than targets. The report endorses the UKSA recommendation that the ONS should publish a statement clarifying the respective roles and responsibilities of the Home Office and the ONS, when producing police-recorded crime statistics.

Bernard Jenkin MP, who chairs the committee, said: 'Crime statistics are central to our understanding of the nature and prevalence of crime in England and Wales. They provide crucial information for the police which helps them to decide how to deploy their manpower resources. Lax supervision of recorded crime data risks reducing the police’s effectiveness in their core role of protecting the public and preventing crime.'



Serious concerns about the crime-recording process have been set out in an interim report on crime data integrity issued by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).

HMIC found weak or absent management and supervision of crime-recording, significant under-recording of crime, serious sexual offences not being recorded, and some offenders having been issued with out-of-court disposals when their offending history could not justify it.

The report is based on HMIC’s audits of 13 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales. HMIC highlights that if the findings for the first set of forces are representative across all forces and all crime types, this implies that 20 percent of crimes may be going unrecorded. HMIC does stress that some forces have performed better than others.

HMIC say they will inspect the remaining forces in England and Wales to provide a full picture of crime data integrity, with the final report published in October 2014.

Public Administration Select Committee (PASC)

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