There ain’t nuthin’ more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity!


9:00 am - March 12th 2010

by Unity    


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Is Alan Johnson right to accuse the Tories of deceit over their recent claim that violent crime has risen by 44% since 1998?

Of course he is, in fact he doesn’t go anything like far enough in his accusations. Not only are the Tories wilfully misrepresenting the evidence provided by the police recorded crime statistics, but they are also pursuing a deliberate and wholly mendacious strategy of seeking to undermine public confidence in the British Crime Survey, a point that Johnson has, as yet, failed to put over forcefully enough.

As evidence, let’s refer back to an article by the Shadow Justice Minister, Dominic Grieve, which was published by the Telegraph in January 2009 under the title ‘Fiddling statistics is no way to restore public confidence”.  In the article, Grieve makes the following claims about the British Crime Survey.

The BCS is an obviously poor measure of violent crime. It does not count homicide offences, rape and multiple assaults. It also excludes some of the most vulnerable victims of violence, including: the homeless, elderly people in care homes, students in digs and – until this year – all children. In fact, we know that police recorded violent crime has nearly doubled since 1997.

Grieve’s suggestion that the BCS is an ‘obviously poor measure of violent crime’ because it does not count homicide offences is as risible as it is boneheaded. The clue here is in the name, British Crime Survey, which explains precisely why it doesn’t count homicide offences – you need to be alive in order to complete the survey form. In any case, homicides accounted for only 662 of the 2.1 million violent offences that the BCS estimated as having taken place in 2008/9, a mere 0.03 percent of the total number of offences.

The claim that the British Crime Survey does not count rape offences and, by extension, other sexual offences, is patently untrue. Although these offences are not covered by the main survey, a voluntary self-completion questionnaire has been used to estimate the prevalence of rape since 2003, with the evidence published annually in a supplementary volume (pdf) to the main “Crime in England and Wales” report. This volume also covers homicides (using police recorded crime statistics), firearms offences and other types of intimate violence.

Far from omitting rape, the British Crime Survey is the only regular source of evidence for the actual prevalence of both sexual offences and domestic violence, both of which we know to be massively under-reported in police recorded crime statistics. It is also the only regular source of evidence for the prevalence of repeat/multiple victimisation across a broad range of offences, from violent crimes to vandalism and criminal damage, contrary to Grieve’s assertion that multiple assaults are no included i the BCS figures.

As regards Grieve’s list of excluded and ‘most vulnerable’ victims, the background to these omissions and to the decision to include children in future surveys while continuing to exclude residents of communal establishments, i.e. hostels, nursing and care homes and university halls of residence was covered is some detail in a research report that was published well before Grieve’s article saw the light of day.

The report notes that communal establishments house only 2.1% of the resident population of England and Wales, a little over two-thirds of which are accounted for care/nursing homes and university halls of residence. It also covers the logistical difficulties and disproportionately high costs associated with surveying this segment of the population before noting that these far outweigh the potential benefits of extending the survey to these groups or, indeed, the risk of any biases associated with the omission. As populations go, the numbers residing in communal establishments are too small, relative to other potential sources of bias, such as measurement error and non-response rates, to have any significant impact on the validity of survey as a whole. If the prevalence of crime is these communal residences were double that of the private households it is estimated that this would add no more than a half a percentage point to current victimisation rates.

Finally, the reference to the near doubling of police recorded violent crime is one that we already know that to be untrue.

What Grieve did here was make the same error for which his successor as Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, was recently torn a new orifice by the UK Statistics Authority, leading to an attempt, this week, to partially rebut that criticism with a revised ‘study’ of the police recorded crime statistics that has been no less risible or mendacious than Grieve’s earlier attempt to discredit the BCS.

As was widely reported by even sympathetic media titles, including the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, Grayling refused to publish the data to back up his claim that crime had risen by 44% under Labour, and we know that this refusal stems from the fact that there is no new study, as confirmed by Shamik Das’s conversation with a spokeswoman for the House of Commons Library.

I’m afraid I cannot send you the information you require, it was an individual request for information from a member. I can’t even tell you who that member is because it was a confidential request, though it’s pretty obvious who it was.

“In any case, it’s not a study at all, just some answers to a request from a member.”

Further digging suggests that what Grayling  actually obtained from the House of Commons Library was this report, published in October 2008, on changes in crime reporting practices, which makes for some very interesting reading, not least in terms of the clear reference to another recent (2008) example of deliberate Tory misrepresentation of a change in the police recording standards.

The report also provides a very interesting piece of information that does much to put the Tory’s longstanding interest in the accuracy of crime statistics into its proper perspective. In April 1998, a little under a year after Labour come to power, the Home Office introduced its first raft of major changes to the counting rules that the Police were expected to work to when recording the number of crimes reported to them.

Putting these new rules in place led to a 118% increase in the amount of violent crime recorded in the official police recorded crime statistics compared to the previous year, a year in which police recorded crime statistics were compiled to standards set out by the previous Tory government.

[Quick literary note – the title of this post is a deliberate play on a line in Tennessee William’s ‘Cat on Hot Tin Roof’, hence the bout of unorthodox spelling]

UPDATE

It appears that the House of Commons Library has now published the actual briefing that Chris Grayling requested, which appears to be not too much more than a summary of the October 2008 report.

It does, however, state unequivocally that:

…police recorded crime is not viewed as a reliable indicator of trends as the number of offences recorded can be affected by various factors.

And, more importantly…

Because of the implementation of the NCRS the published recorded crime data should only be compared from 2002/03. Even when using this data it should be noted that the impact of the NCRS implementation was not confined only to 2002/03 and that increased levels of NCRS compliance across police forces in subsequent years will have affected crime recording.

To borrow a line from the Tory’s maths tsar, Lady Vordermort, it appears that the House of Commons Library has done a fine job of consolidating all of Grayling’s manifest incompetence and mendacity into a single, easily manageable, report.

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About the author
'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Conservative Party ,Crime

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Reader comments


Could we by any chance have a survey that doesn’t exclude certain crimes (which the BCS does)?

I apologise for constantly posting this but in the past the Home Office has produced figures suggesting crime is much higher than the BCS suggests – http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/hors217.pdf

The only way to ensure trust in crime figures and to determine whether crime really is falling or rising is to use some form of survey/record that doesn’t exclude any crimes.

2. Joanna Natasegara

Unity, Dominic Grieve repeats Grayling’s assertions in our new film, The Fear Factory (see post on this site) – this is a clear Tory party policy to scare the public into voting blue.

Richard,

Surely simple enough to have 2 datasets – the (more reliable) BCS and one looking at non-BCS violent crime (against under 16s, against businesses and homicides I think) and draw inferences from that?

Surprised – if this is a quest for truth (hah) Grayling and the Tories don’t do this.

I can help re homicides – there were 739 in 1997 and 648 in 2008-09. A massive rise?


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. House Of Twits

    RT @Alex_Ross1983 There ain’t nuthin’ more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! http://bit.ly/93qorQ

  2. Unity

    RT @libcon: There ain't nuthin' more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! – http://bit.ly/bmQpn0

  3. unslugged

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  4. AndyG

    RT @mydavidcameron RT @libcon: There ain't nuthin' more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! http://bit.ly/bmQpn0

  5. Will Straw

    RT @Unity_MoT: RT @libcon: There ain't nuthin' more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! – http://bit.ly/bmQpn0

  6. Shamik Das

    More on Chris Grayling's fiddling of crime stats: RT @libcon: Tory mendacity exposed: http://is.gd/akdy7

  7. Ben Cooper

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  9. John

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  10. 5 Chinese Crackers

    RT @libcon There ain’t nuthin’ more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! http://ow.ly/1qdOll

  11. MyDavidCameron

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  12. Demontrout

    RT @mydavidcameron: RT @libcon: There ain't nuthin' more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! http://bit.ly/bmQpn0

  13. topsy_top20k

    RT @Alex_Ross1983 There ain’t nuthin’ more powerful than the smell of Tory mendacity! http://bit.ly/93qorQ

  14. Lucy Openshaw

    RT @shamikdas More on Chris Grayling's fiddling of crime stats: RT @libcon: Tory mendacity exposed: http://is.gd/akdy7

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