Monday, 28 February 2011


"To be persuaded crime is going down, look at the Government figures.
To be persuaded it is not, look out of the window"

The Thin Blue Line response to the
National Statisticians Review of Crime Statistics

Q1: Responsibility for the publication of crime statistics is to be moved out of the Home Office. Who should now assume this responsibility to increase public trust in the crime statistics?

The Home Secretary is to be commended for identifying an opportunity to increase public trust in crime statistics. This is absolutely crucial if any real success in pursuit of the single target to cut crime is to be taken seriously and afforded any credibility.

However, before deciding who is best positioned to help increase public trust in crime statistics, no stone must be left unturned in getting to the root of how and why trust has become eroded in the first place. Without the essential painful steps to arrive at the heart of the matter, any efforts in this direction are liable to face the same scepticism and doubt about the motives of the Government.

Before committing the undoubted millions in financial resources, the Government must transparently deal with the causes that led and continue to feed the lack of confidence. Mistakenly focusing on the effects of such a lack will place them in no better position than their predecessors, and any action they DO take will be undermined by political and media agendas.

The integrity and reputation of crime statistics and detections has been damaged almost beyond repair. To do anything other than truthfully reveal what has gone wrong will be nothing short of a whitewash and such actions and obfuscations have contributed to the present malaise.

“Overcoming Barriers” and other reviews into crime statistics arrive at some useful observations and conclusions. At our pages on we have conducted our own in depth analysis of crime statistics over recent years in the form of twenty articles and reports into the subject. We are presently compiling our most in depth analysis of crime statistics to date, containing evidence not previously available or published that reflects the pervading problem of Gaming and the distorting effect it has had on statistics, in particular throughout the years of the Labour administration, which will be presented to the Home Office when completed. There are we believe a number of key factors sapping public and commentator confidence that must be addressed before the subject of responsibility for publication of the statistics can be considered:-

• The very real endemic problem of “Gaming”, in the form of “Stitching”, “Skewing” Nodding” and “Cuffing” must be thoroughly and openly investigated and the results exposed. Each element has its own dramatic distorting effect on the integrity of recorded crime. Rank and file officers from all forces report that the practices remain widespread, despite the introduction of the HOCR, NCRS and NSIR. Performance targeting and financial incentives in the form of senior officer bonuses have corrupted the previous integrity of the data. The examples of how crime recording is perverted and manipulated to convey the impression of falling crime are many, particularly in regard to volume crimes such as theft related incidents involving vehicles, criminal damage and burglary. (One simple example: twenty vehicles are attacked in a car park, with twenty victims. It is commonplace for all twenty to be given the same crime reference number, so that only one offence is recorded. If suspects are detained, there would be twenty theft reports and twenty detections, hence improving the detection performance. The examples we have collated are too numerous to mention here.

• The regulatory bodies of HMIC, IPPC and the IOC have been fully aware of the corruptive influence of Gaming, but all have failed in the execution of their responsibilities and duty to expose the full extent of the problem to the public, evidenced by the lack of any individual or force being brought to account for the activities.

• The continued existence of two sources of data, the BCS and recorded crime, with their inherent weaknesses have led to a mass of confusion and continued opportunities for media and political misrepresentation. The merits of both are understood and appreciated. However the fact remains that the BCS is a survey based on estimates drawn from a small representative element of society and has too many exclusions. Despite the sound intent to arrive at the bigger picture and the significant effort and integrity involved in the collection of data, as a comparison tool, it is of little value. Recorded crime suffers from a number of flaws, massive under reporting, excessive complexity and most serious, the gross misrepresentations resulting from Gaming.

• It is staggering that despite all the analytical and statistical expertise that the previous Home Office Ministers have had at their disposal, that there has been no satisfactory explanation of the effects of the HOCR, NCRS and NSIR changes to the data collection and presentation. Again, whilst the reasons for their introduction can be appreciated, it cannot be acceptable that crime statistics, which have such a vital influence over such important matters as operational decision making in policing, have remained corrupted and incomparable year to year. As the Smith review concluded, such changes to vital statistical series should be better managed. The solution would seem to be to invest the time and resources to equalising the data from the years the changes were introduced.

• The biggest mistake this Government could make in this area, would be to repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. Many saw the HOCR, NCRS introduction as a political opportunity exploited by Labour to muddy the waters of crime, and thenceforth be able to present statistics that reflected reductions under their watch. Any consideration to appointing an “Independent Crime Recording Agency” must be preceded by honest transparent opening of the present books, as an insolvency agent would do when conducting the administration of a business. Only when all of the facts and truths are revealed, will there be a possibility of rebuilding and regaining confidence. To do otherwise would be to build on the existing weak and untrusted foundations.

• If two subsets of data are to continue, their respective values will not increase until they are comparable, with identical offences and offence groups.

• Many of the reasons for under reporting by the public have been well publicised. Yet, little has been done in practice to improve matters. Each of the key factors for non-reporting must be thoroughly examined and all solutions that encourage inter action by the public and victims of crime considered. A total crime picture is unattainable, but far more can be done to arrive at a more accurate reflection of the true nature and extent of crime. The expression that comes to mind is “How can you expect to hit a target you can’t even see?”

• Crime mapping is an excellent means of improving communication about crime on a localised basis to the community. However, whilst the current recorded crime data collection process remains unsatisfactory, this will worsen rather than improve public perception of crime.

• To a large extent, the biggest problem lies with the supervisory strategies employed by senior officers. To this extent, performance targeting must be forcibly extinguished. The fact that over 30 of the 43 forces have retained performance targets scrapped by Theresa May is an indication of size and nature of the problem. Whilst this is allowed to continue, it will have a perverse and divisive effect on the integrity of recorded crime. A return to the simplified and universal recording processes will greatly assist matters.

The views and conclusions conveyed here are condensed versions of those we have expressed on our site and in our reports. We will forward a copy of our detailed report in due course. A thorough review of crime statistics is clearly overdue and essential. The collection and presentation of the data should be in the hands of a totally non-political independent body such as the ONS. Value for money would be delivered as only through such independence, and assured data integrity for the future will the twin benefits of better financial and human resource allocation and a slow return of public and media confidence be enjoyed. Independent and detailed (without pre warnings) audits will be essential if the rot that currently exists within the process is to be eliminated and future integrity maintained.

Q2: Is there also a case for transferring responsibility for the management and/or compilation of data collected from the British Crime Survey and the police ? If so, where

The temptation for the Government might be to create an “Independent Crime Recording Agency”. Whilst excellent in principle, for reasons outlined in Q1, the integrity of the source data must be absolutely above reproach to avoid any subsequent slide back into the “Lies, lies and damn statistics”* accusations. (*Benjamin Disraeli)

Whether an independently funded organisation (risking the “Quango” criticisms) or remaining with the Home Office, the principle of Garbage In = Garbage Out will pervade until transparent and honest steps have been taken to clean up the data.

It seems most logical and sensible that the ONS should assume responsibility for the compilation of the recorded crime set. The BCS responsibility should remain with the Home Office to optimise the expertise and resources presently available.

The issue here revolves around trust and the lack of it from a public perspective. Until this issue is faced, openly and honestly – “head-on”, I suspect that doubt and scepticism will continue. Even if this involves controversial exposure of historic details with all that brings, crime statistics are too important to be allowed to fester in a sea of distrust.

Crime statistics should be the epitome of transparency and honesty, with good news or bad, so that the correct remedial action and police/judicial focus and deployment can be made.

The expression “Doing the thing right –vs Doing the right thing” springs to mid. There is a world of difference when applied to crime statistics. All participants of the judicial process may well be doing the thing they do right, but if their focus is misdirected due to inaccurate, mismanaged or worse, manipulated data (Gaming), then their efforts are devalued through doing the ‘wrong thing’ right.

Q3: Currently, the Home Secretary determines what is recorded by the police as a crime and approves the Home Office Counting Rules for crime and statutory data requirements from the police. Should this continue or would public trust in the statistics be enhanced if this responsibility moved elsewhere? If so, where and why?

This presents an opportunity for the Government and the Ministry of Justice to “Join Up Justice” by utilising the experience and knowledge of the judiciary to ensure crime recording is more compatible with the MOJ recording processes.

The current “Flows Through Justice” charts are useful but could be infinitely moreso if directly correlated to the offences to which they relate.

At present, the HOCR are excessively complicated for public consumption and require a dramatic simplification.

Whilst there is no independent body overseeing the Home Office determinations for application of the HOCR, there will always be the suspicion that the Home Office have exerted political interference with policing statistics to project a particular picture of crime. The Home Office have significant expertise in this area, as do naturally, the police. However, an independent body, suitably qualified from the judiciary with the vision to deliver a transparent joined up justice picture would inspire greater confidence.

Q4: The Terms of Reference for the review asks for consideration of the current definitions of crime. Do you have any comments?
The current definitions of crime would seem to be adequate for their purposes. The problem lies in the number of notifiable offences that exist. Perhaps if some multiple definitions could be combined this would reduce the statistical burden. It may complicate the legal definitions slightly, but this would be a small price to pay provided the definitions were not adjusted in such a way so as to compromise the ends of justice.

Q5: It has been said that the crime statistics provide a partial picture. What, if any, are the main gaps in Home Office crime statistics that you feel should be addressed as a priority

Transparency and honesty. Making no apologies for repeating the concerns here. The yawning gap that has existed for a number of years now, has been the non-addressed problem of gaming within the service. Whatever the extent and causes, until this is rooted out completely and the system made “Game Proof” (Bevan & Hood 2006), there will never be a more complete picture. over the coming days.

This review and action that may follow represents the perfect opportunity for reform and the Coalition should grasp it firmly.

The temptation to practice Gaming when producing and delivering performance management data including crime statistics on recorded crime and detections, could be removed by either making the targets less specific or by making the monitoring process more ambiguous and spontaneous. The HMIC thematic inspections are a step in the right direction, however we would maintain that this should be a more regular and unannounced practice with independent representation.

The ‘dark figure’ of crime as it is known – the mismatch between crime estimates produced by victimisation surveys and those recorded by the police – is a well-known concept in the most elementary criminology. Much has been written about the ‘reporting’ shortfall; why victims of crime do not report their experiences to the police. By comparison, the ‘recording’ shortfall is under-researched, and widely misunderstood. The shortfall is further exacerbated by “Cuffing” and other practices to under record or fail to record crime.

The ‘dark figure’ of crime is an argument that will not fade until the focus is shifted toward statistics that can be relied upon more consistently. There is a strong case for abandoning the British Crime Survey which, as well as being an expensive luxury in times of fiscal constraint, serves to highlight the gap between recorded and actual crime, yet offers no realistic and acceptable solution.

Why do we need the entirety of BCS? It tells us that crime levels are higher than those reported to the police, which is a fact that is widely known anyway. Whilst public opinion, experience and perceptions of crime are useful barometers of public concern and opinion and we would not advocate dispensing with this element, we must question the statistical element that mischievously competes with recorded crime. If the concern lies with the accuracy of recorded crime, then surely the focus should be on implementing measures and safeguards that improve the recorded crime system, not continue with a system that only serves to deplete public confidence year after year. A survey, no matter how well conducted remains just that, a survey of opinion, not fact. Strip it down, reduce the costs associated with it and remove one of the greatest barriers of all, to public trust in crime statistics.

Perhaps then, with an improved and properly regulated recorded crime system, the gap will diminish and we will return to a situation where the public can confidently rely upon police recorded crime.

Q6: What are the most important considerations for trustworthy crime statistics?

Transparency, honesty and currency.

The figures presented must instil faith in the public that they are of the highest integrity. Currently, the statistics fail this test.

Opening the recorded crime books to the public in the form of crime mapping is an excellent first step. However, until the recorded crime act is cleaned up, the success of such ventures are compromised.

Historic data is useful only to identify trends on a local and national level, to establish which areas of crime have been successfully addressed.

This enables the appropriate allocation of fiscal and human resources to the current crime position. We would repeat the earlier statement… It is all about doing the right thing as opposed to doing the thing right. A police team focused on crime patterns that have long since disappeared may well be doing the job right, but they should be focused on the crime that is causing most public concern, backed up by current recorded crime incidents.

At present, the police focus is misdirected. Despite the Home Secretary’s instruction to scrap all targets but cutting crime, Chief Officers have, in the large majority, failed to comply, fearful perhaps that without a yardstick to be measured by, they will not be seen as effective. Current crime statistics, centered around those offences that cause most current public concern are where the police focus should be directed, not toward the “Big Win” detection activities that cause so much public disaffection and distrust. It is a fact that the police activity of recent years has criminalised more people who are less deserving of police attention. The focus should remain with those key offence groups of violence, sexual offences, property etc. Protection of life and property, prevention and detection of crime (real crime, not playground disputes that have escalated out of hand and have demanded police attention. Return our police officers to what they joined up for. No more, no less.

Q7: What do you consider to be the main strengths of crime statistics?
Current, transparent, honestly recorded crime statistics are an essential component in allocating the true fiscal and human resources required for policing, both locally and on a national level.  Used sensibly and with sound management, crime statistics should underpin and focus police activity.
Q8: Do you have any other views you wish to feed into this review?
We have completed twenty or so articles and analytical reports centered around crime statistics over the last two years, consulting with rank and file police officers, Home Office statisticians, referring to respected public domain publications to form a broad and overall view of the subject. Coincidentally, we are near to completing a detailed analysis of crime statistics “Crime of the Century” that will be connected by hyperlink to our site

Visit for an excellent an excellent perspective of the statistics fiasco! With thanks also to Dickiebo for the mention and well worth a visit.

Sunday, 20 February 2011



The extent of the damage done to Samantha Fraser's face

This case, reported in the Mail today by Peter Hitchens highlights the sickening state of the miserable justice system of our country, where a slouching youth can smash the face of a beautiful girl with a brick and walk from court with nothing more than a £200 fine and a year to pay it.

He won’t even have a criminal record and we're not allowed to know his name.

His case was heard in a special 'youth court' where his victim was not present and where everyone behaved with great consideration in case he was upset.

Peter has written a long article about the case, some of which is reprinted here. His sentiments must surely be echoed by every decent citizen left in the UK. Even as a time served retired copper, this one made my blood boil to read the details.

Somehow the story needs to reverberate for years to come in the minds of the fat-bottomed, complacent people who are responsible for this, and who will do nothing about it, ever, in case somebody at the BBC calls them 'fascists'.

When Clare Fraser told Peter what had happened to her lovely daughter Samantha, and what had not happened to the boy who attacked her, he admits that he actually cried. I can understand why.

Not just because of the horrible injury to a good and admirable person; not just because of the eloquent fury of Clare's letter to Peter; not because of the squalor and mean-mindedness of the lout who, in a second of casual cruelty, smashed a hole in another person’s life as well as in her face. But because Peter had to admit to her that there was probably nothing to be done about it.

The injustice of our age is of a different kind. But it is no less smug and no less in need of being made to feel so ashamed of itself that it reforms its behaviour deeply and permanently. Something similar needs to be said here to those who for decades have withdrawn the police from the streets, neutered the courts, and coddled the lout in the hope that he will be nice back.

The people (of all political parties) who have fiddled the crime figures down, the people who have automatically halved every prison sentence, the people who even now are saying that it will be perfectly all right if fewer wrongdoers are sent to prison, the sort who say that critics such as me are indulging in exaggeration and 'moral panic'. Not to mention the dried-up dead-hearted prosecutors, with calculators instead of consciences, who think their purpose is economy rather than justice.

So far have we come that these events can happen in our country.

The scene is Widnes in the modern North of England, a district of neat, modest houses and sweeping new road systems, more Morrisons and Lidl than Waitrose, but bright and reasonably prosperous, not some lunar dead zone of boarded-up windows, dead fridges and old mattresses.

Ambitious: Before her ordeal, Samantha
had hopes of a modeling career
Samantha Fraser, a superb young athlete, Christianly brought up in a kind home by good parents, suffered as follows.

A youth, having nothing better to do one evening, hurled a brick at the car in which she was sitting. He just happened to be feeling that way, without warning. It could have been any car. It could have been your car, or mine. The brick came straight through the window at an impact speed of about 30mph, bringing a shower of glass fragments with it. It smashed Samantha’s nose into a thousand pieces.

It made an actual hole in her forehead.

She, having no idea what had taken place, numb with fright, unable to see and pouring blood, screamed repeatedly: ‘What’s happened?!’ ‘What’s happened?!’ Her friends in the car tried to tell her everything was all right, but as she says: 'I didn’t believe them. I couldn’t see. I was thinking that I would now be blind, that I would never be able to do athletics again.'

When her elder brother saw the wreckage of her face, he urged his mother, Clare, not to come to the hospital because the sight would distress her too much.

Samantha herself wasn’t allowed near a mirror for months after the attack last June.

Later, when she saw pictures of herself soon after the attack, she did not believe it was actually her. 'It didn’t look anything like me. It looked like something out of a violent film.'

Surgeons had to cut up through the roof of her mouth and slice the skin of her scalp from ear to ear to pull her poor face back into shape. She has metal plates in her cheeks and nose. They have done a marvellous job of rebuilding, and that Samantha herself is still a very good-looking young woman (though her mother talks wistfully of how irrecoverably perfect her nose used to be) and astonishingly free from bitterness.

Samantha explained flatly that her senses of taste and smell have been destroyed forever. 'Eating food now is just like eating ... nothing,' she says, with a quiet understatement that actually conveys rather powerfully what a loss this is.

'Sometimes we wish she would moan a bit,' says Clare, a funny, thoughtful fierce person who understandably thinks her daughter has a lot to complain about. Rather than moan, this remarkable 17-year-old has thought very carefully about what the event means, and how she should respond. As her vision slowly returns to normal, she is once again training as an athlete. She is not so sure about the (entirely justified) hopes she had once of a modelling career. She still hopes to study to become a nurse, as she always planned.

Disgustingly, her attacker – who was for a while at the same school as her – was able to intimidate her while he awaited trial, making foul gestures at her through classroom windows and once mocking her by miming the throwing of a brick. As long as she lives in the family home, she knows he is not far away.

She won’t go near the stretch of road where the attack happened. She doesn’t like it. Suddenly, in the only sign of real distress she gives in a long conversation, she blurts out: 'I don’t like it anywhere in this country!
'It’s horrible. Do I want to move away from here? Yes, I want to move to America.' In Texas or California, she believes, she can live her life free of such people.

Samantha’s parents were not told that they had 28 days to lodge an appeal against the trivial sentence imposed on the youth responsible, so they have no formal route to justice. All they can do is protest. The insulting compensation payments arrive, in little dribbles, and perhaps they may obtain more such compensation, but it does not actually compensate.

What they hunger and thirst for is justice. For a while they actually hoped to get it.

They unreservedly praise the police for trying to catch the culprit and succeeding.

The letter from the CPS which shows how little they cared about Samantha
But Clare was quickly suspicious of the Crown Prosecution Service, which seemed mainly anxious to avoid expense and trouble, and so reduced the charge from one attracting a heavy sentence to one involving a far lighter one. They also abandoned the very serious charge of witness intimidation, watering that down to the charge normally used when someone swears at a police officer. When Clare challenged them, she says, they patronised her.

Then there is the sheaf of letters from the CPS 'Witness Care Officer', one Linda Mullarkey. These letters, prompted by years of complaints that victims and witnesses were treated like dirt by the courts, seek to give the impression that the authorities really, really care. Alas, one of Ms Mullarkey’s missives shows the concern is just cut and pasted out of a book. 'On behalf of the prosecution team,' she says, 'I would like to thank you for your assistance in this case. 'Samantha’s evidence was crucial in bringing it to justice and his contribution is greatly appreciated.' We all make mistakes, but male Samanthas are rare in this country, if not entirely unknown, and anyone who had the slightest true concern about this particular crime would not have allowed such an error to remain in a finished letter. In this piece of sloppiness we see the gap between what we are told and what actually happens.

If all the recent politicians’ speeches about 'crackdowns', 'bobbies on the beat', 'tough sentences' and the rest were played end to end, they would last about a year. But in this wholly clear-cut case of wicked, inexcusable and life-changing violence on an ordinary suburban street, we see them for what they are. A slimy mass of conscious falsehood, accompanied by the patronising and insulting dismissal of real fear and pain by people who themselves live in comfortable safety.

I agree with Peter in wishing I could think of a way to make them cry.

Professionals behind the travesty 

The CPS Prosecutor

Clare Sedgmond was previously a solicitor at the Department for Work and Pensions. Last year she prosecuted a man who had threatened his ex-wife and her family in abusive calls and texts. He received only a 12-month community order after Ms Sedgmond told a magistrate: 'We hope to come to some amicable agreement.'
Defending her conduct in the case against Ms Fraser’s attacker, a CPS spokeswoman said: 'The defendant was charged with causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. The defence offered a plea to GBH without the intent element. After reviewing the evidence, the prosecutor decided the plea was acceptable.'

The CPS Regional Chief
Paul Whittaker, Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS Merseyside, has a CBE for his work to reform the justice service – but he appears to have largely made his name by cutting costs. His CPS biography says he has been 'at the forefront of innovation in the service'. It adds: 'Merseyside was the first CPS area to develop the Early Guilty Plea scheme, which ... reduces expense to the public purse whilst also achieving swift justice.'

The Youth Court Magistrate
Vivienne Higgins, magistrate at Runcorn Youth Court, lives with her property developer husband in Widnes. She declined to comment, but in court she said she decided not to give a custodial sentence because the assailant was not a persistent offender, adding it was important to note he was 14 at the time of the crime.
She said: 'We have considered the principle of the Youth Justice System and lack of previous offences. We therefore are sentencing him to the recommended Referral Order for [12 months]. Compensation £200.' The Order is a contract 'to repair harm caused by the offence and address the causes of offending behaviour'.

The Defence Solicitor
Liam Ferris persuaded the CPS they would be unable to prove his client guilty of GBH with intent, and successfully challenged attempts to have the case heard at Crown Court instead of Youth Court. Mr Ferris, who has been a solicitor for 16 years and works in Widnes, has admitted he tries 'not to think about' whether his client is guilty. He recently defended a heroin dealer saying his client needed to 'deal' to pay off a drugs debt. He was unavailable for comment.

Well done Peter for bringing this to public attention. Your sentiments must be echoed by every decent minded citizen left in this country. Sady, this is yet another nail in the coffin in the miserable joke that has become our British justice system.

S18 Offences Against The Person Act : Whosoever shall unlawfully and maliciously by any means whatsoever, wound or cause GBH to any other person with intent to do GBH to any person. (Life Imprisonment)

S20 Unlawfully and maliciously wound or inflict GBH upon any other person either with or without any weapon or instrument. (5 years Imprisonment)

Malice includes a recklessness as to whether any harmful consequences which are foreseen as likely will actually ensue or not.

If the intent to do GBH is absent, there is certainly a reckless element, so prima facie offence of S20 is committed. The penalties are there. The sentencing guidelines are a joke. This offence should have attracted a custodial sentence.

Friday, 18 February 2011


"Gaming - Cooking the Books" of Crime Statistics

As regular visitors to these pages will know, one of the most contraversial subjects that we have reported on most frequently in depth, is the manipulation of crime statistics and detections. Shortly after her appointment as Home Secretary, Theresa May scrapped the plethora of police performance targets in an effort to free up our police officers to focus on one single objective, what the front line police really want to do, what they do best and what the public want most - simply to cut crime. 

The challenge that faces the Home Secretary, the policing minister Nick Herbert and their team, is that confidence and trust in the integrity of recorded crime and police detections is at an all time low. This lack of trust is fuelled by years of political interference, linking crime reduction and detections to senior officer bonus payments and selective focusing by the media. Until this confidence and trust begins to return, any genuine advances in this area will be received with scepticism and suspicion. 

We have written at length in previous articles detailing the various tactics within the practice that has become known as "Gaming". Previous articles and reports on the subject can be accessed via the links at the foot of this piece. In summary, we conclude from our dialogue with serving officers from all over the UK, that the practices of statistic manipulation remain evident, perpetrating what we have called the "Crime of the Century" - a pernicious conspiratorial deception in an attempt to fool the public that crime has decreased and detections have risen. Officers of the highest rank appear to have colluded at worst, condoned at best, practices that amount to "Cooking the books" of crime for personal financial or career gain. Politicians have used the statistics to gain political advantage in the most blatant point scoring exercise, all based on the fallacy of falling crime and rising detections.

Taking courageous and sensible steps in an attempt to bring about reform, the Home Secretary has invited the National Statistician to conduct an independent review of crime statistics with the aim of increasing public confidence in these statistics. The Home Secretary has decided that the publication of crime statistics should be moved out of the Home Office to promote greater public trust and demonstrate their independence. The review is due to report at the end of April 2011. It is then intended to run a public consultation on the recommendations from the review.

The review will:

•consider gaps, discrepancies and discontinuities within crime statistics;
•recommend the best future location for the publication of crime statistics, and their associated data collection systems; and
•produce an action plan for the implementation of recommendations from the UK Statistics Authority’s report Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales published in May 2010.

The full terms of reference for the review can be downloaded from this link.

The National Statistician will use the following criteria in evaluating options for the future location of crime statistics. She will look at the impact on:

•public confidence in the statistics;
•quality of the statistics;
•burden on data suppliers;
•cost and efficiency;
•statistical expertise and capability; and
•uses and user needs.

The National Statistician would like to invite comments on this review and has published a news release to this effect which can also be downloaded from this link.

To feed your views into the review please respond using the Word template available for download by clicking here. Please send this form back via email or post:


Crime Statistics Review
National Statistician's Office
Room 1.015
Government Buildings
Cardiff Road
NP10 8XG

The Overcoming Barriers report states:

Most commentators would agree that measuring crime and reporting on crime statistics are inherently difficult. The crime figures for England and Wales, for which the Home Office is responsible, have been subject to many improvements over the years and, in terms of technical quality, they compare well with corresponding statistics for other countries.

However, there continues to be public criticism of the statistics and mistrust in the way that they are used and quoted. As far as we can tell, this exceeds the level of criticism and mistrust in most other countries.

Research and previous reviews have suggested that this mistrust is exacerbated by the nature of some media reporting of the statistics. This may, in part, reflect wider mistrust of official information, not just statistics, but there are factors inherent to crime statistics that may also play a role:

• the existence of two major data sources (police recorded crime figures and the British Crime Survey). Both sources are essential to create a full picture, but their different strengths and weaknesses lead, on occasions, to a degree of public and political confusion and present an opportunity for selective and misleading quotation and reporting

• the difficulty of ensuring consistent recording practice across the 43 territorial police forces and the British Transport Police. The counting and classification of crime after it is reported to the police is a complex process; and changes to the rules and guidelines are necessary from time to time as problems emerge and are resolved, or in order to reflect changes in legislation. This is a proper part of a process of continuous updating and improvement, but it can also generate suspicion and confusion.


Theresa May, in appointing the National Statistician Jil Matheson to review the process, has begun to prize the lid off the "Can of Worms" of crime statistics. The greatest cause for concern is that those who have benefitted most from the orchestrated manipulation of the numbers down the years are adept at disguising their activity or worst, deflecting responsibility downward to the rank and file officers who have been instructed to carry out their strategies.  

The absolute facts must be unearthed if true confidence is to be restored. If, as it is believed, some Senior Officers have abused the process and knowingly received bonus payments for crime reduction and detections that have been manipulated, the scandal that will emerge will undoubtedly eclipse that of the MP Expenses saga. If proven to be the case, the consequences are worse, in that it would involve our most senior and previously trusted police officers, who are expected to conduct themselves in the most exemplorary manner. If this is, as we believe the case, the truth must come out if the slate of crime statistics is to be wiped clean and moved forward with honesty and transparency. If senior officers have knowingly perpetrated or condoned such activity, we must ask and answer the tough question: "Are such officers fit to be controlling our police service?"

From all the evidence we have compiled, from serving, former and retired officers all around the country, we have every reason to suspect that Jil Matheson will face resistance to uncovering the absolute truth. We hope that she will demonstrate the courage and determination to expose any improper activity and that the Home Secretary will deal with any transgressions quickly and publicly.

Concern exists over the "regulatory bodies" of the HMIC (Her Majesties Inpector of Constabuary), the IPCC (Indpendent Police Complaints Commission), and the IOC, (Office of the Information Commissioner), all of whom have been aware of the "Gaming" practices prevalent in our police forces, yet have brought no individual or force to account for fear of the further bad "PR" this would undoubtedly create. If the regulatory bodies have indeed failed in the execution of their respective duties, Jil Matheson, Theresa May and all who seek transparent and honest reporting will face an immense challenge.

The majority of this activity, if and when reealed and proven, will be shown to have taken place under the Labour administration, focused as it was with all the pubic sector, on performance targeting accompanied by financial incentives. This is a divisive tactic, open to abuse and manipulation and Theresa May has a limited window of opportunity to expose the activity before the opposition can weaken her argument that this took place on their watch.

A simplistic view is that the proposed introduction of Locally Elected Police and Crime Commissioners may in part, have been born out of a mistrust of the senior officers to exert proper fiscal control over the fiefdoms Nick Herbert is keen to break up. An extension of this line of thought is that perhaps this is partly why policing was not "ring fenced" and protected from the budget cuts the service now faces. Could it be that profligate spending combined with fudged crime statistics have contributed to the belief that the forces can now achieve "more with less?" and that so many officers fear the security of their future?  


Here at the Thin Blue Line, we are compiling our own submission to the National Statisticians review. We intend to pull no punches. Coincidentally, we are in the process of compiling our own, in depth report "Crime Of the Century", which will appear on these pages when complete. This will accompany our submission to Jil Matheson.

Rank and file officers are naturally fearful of the consequences of speaking out about strategies imposed on them by their senior officers. We have collated numerous examples of "Cuffing", "Stitching", "Skewing" and "Nodding" in forces all around the country. For the uninitiated, or those who simply need a reminder, we have explained these terms below:

1. ‘Cuffing’ is about making crime seem to disappear by failing to record it. The term ‘cuffing’ derives from the magician’s trick of making something disappear up the cuff of their shirt. This is associated with an ‘evidential’ crime recording standard which places the onus on the victim to establish that a crime has been committed. This allows officers to use their discretion on whether or not to accept the victim’s account and record the crime for investigation. This has a long association with ‘gaming’, as officers are known to use a variety of tactics to prevent the crime ‘appearing on the books’.

2. ‘Stitching’ is the fabrication of evidence. Whilst the use of such tactics to secure convictions at Court has largely been addressed by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, administrative procedures still offer the opportunity to obtain detections in circumstances where there is in-sufficient evidence to secure a conviction. These procedures include cautions, informal warnings, and in some circumstances an offence could be recorded as detected without the suspect being made aware of the allegation against them.

3. ‘Skewing’ is about concentrating effort and resources on areas subject to performance indicators. This involves investing less in the investigation of the more difficult and resource intensive areas of police activity, such as the prevention and investigation of serious crime i.e. child abuse and sexual offences. It could also involve the re-deployment of officers to more affluent neighbourhoods where crime is easier to investigate and detect (Patrick 2004).

4. ‘Nodding’ refers to the practice whereby suspects ‘nod’ at locations where they have committed crimes and are able to have them ‘written off’ without any risk of increasing their sentence. The legitimate aims of this administrative procedure is to reduce court time and enable offenders to admit outstanding offences i.e. ‘clean the sheet’ prior to sentencing. This allows the courts to impose a sentence which takes into account the extent of the offender’s criminal activities and alleviates the offender of the fear of being re-apprehended after they have served their sentence for an offence committed prior to incarceration. This administrative procedure has a long history of abuse and appears in two formats; ‘offences taken into consideration (TIC)’ and ‘prison write offs’, which allows offenders to confess to offences post sentence. In these circumstances a senior police officer or member of the Crown Prosecuting Service (CPS) would make the decision to charge on the grounds of whether the individual was likely to receive an increase in their custodial sentence. In both cases the police should have sufficient evidence to charge the suspect if they subsequently decline to accept the offences as TIC or ‘prison write off’. These procedures have long been associated with abuses involving collusion between officers and suspects. The offer of inducements in return for admissions lies at the heart of these illicit exchanges.

Readers are of course free to click the link to the contribution document above and to send it by post or e mail to the addresses supplied. However, there will be many officers who will wish to expose what they believe to be improper practices they have been instructed to implement, but are fearful of exposure and the consequences. (We are only too aware that the police service does not yet protect well intending officers as well as it might). For those officers who wish to contribute anonymously, we would welcome examples that we may include to demonstrate where changes are necessary. These contributions can be made directly to our e mail contact address at the foot of the page, or via anonymous contribution on this or other similar pages.


One final point. No doubt readers will by now have seen and perhaps experimented with the online crime mapping at Whilst well intended, the site is at its earliest stages of development and we hope it proves to be an invaluable tool to inform the community of instances of crime in their local area. However, until the process of recording and presenting crime statistics earns the reputation for transparency and accuracy; and the integrity, trust and credibility of the data is restored, the jury will remain out on this one.

Our recent articles and reports about crime reporting :-

(hopefully the link label will decribe each article sufficiently).

Tuesday, 15 February 2011


To see our report of Britains Car Crime Hotspots CLICK HERE.

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