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Crime Statistics

Volume 409: debated on Friday 18 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to improve the (a) accuracy and (b) presentation of crime statistics. [124791]

The Home Office has always acknowledged the need to improve the accuracy and presentation of the recorded crime statistics. Two important reviews were published in July 2000 which dealt with both these points, and a range of other matters.The first was the "Review of Crime Statistics" (the 'Simmons Review'), which made a total of 66 recommendations. The report set out clearly some of the problems with the arrangements in place at that time and provided a blueprint for a system of crime statistics in England and Wales designed to overcome those problems and to provide a clearer and more reliable set of crime data. A group was established to oversee this review and to ensure that the recommendations were sound, and that group received cross-party support. The full review and the conclusions of this expert group, which asked only that the recommendation relating to establishing an index of crime not be implemented, are available on the Home Office website.The second report was a thematic inspection report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), entitled "On the Record". One of the conclusions of that report was that interpretation of the Home Office Counting Rules for recording crime by police forces was inconsistent and made it hard to establish the degree to which differences in crime rates were simply due to recording factors, or represented a real change in crime.As a result of both of these reports, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) developed the new National Crime Recording Standard. The Standard aims to promote a greater consistency between police forces in the recording of crime and to take a more victim oriented approach to crime recording.The National Crime Recording Standard was adopted nationally with effect from 1 April 2002. However, the work to establish standards for recording and greater consistency is on-going. In addition, a new audit regime has been introduced, overseen by the Police Standards Unit in the Home Office and carried out on their behalf by the Audit Commission. The audits are designed to ensure that forces are implementing the Standard and applying the Counting Rules correctly. In addition, Force Crime Registrars are encouraged to undertake their own internal audits, and guidance has been provided to ensure that any such auditing is robust.A further data source is the British Crime Survey (BCS). The BCS is considered to be the most reliable measure of personal and household crime in England and Wales and significant improvements have been made to the Survey recently. The Survey has increased its sample size from 20,000 interviews to 40,000 and it is now conducted on a rolling year basis. The BCS also includes those crimes that are not reported to or recorded by the police. While the BCS does not claim to count all crimes in England and Wales, it does provide a consistent measure of trends from one year to the next in those crimes of greatest concern to members of the public.With regard to the presentation of crime statistics, the Review of Crime Statistics recommended that the recorded crime statistics and the British Crime Survey should be considered together. They are complementary series that, taken together, provide a better picture of crime than can be obtained from either series alone. The publication of the data in this way ensures that the public has available the most comprehensive picture of crime in a single volume and at the same time.Figures from both sources were published together for the first time in July last year in "Crime and England and Wales 2001–02" (Home Office Statistical Bulletin 07/02). The second combined volume covering the period 2002–03 has been published and copies are available in the Library. We believe that this publication provides the best and most comprehensive presentation of the latest position on crime in England and Wales.

Due to the introduction of the new National Crime Recording Standard, this publication makes necessary adjustments to the recorded crime figures in order to present a more accurate picture of the real trends in crime underlying the recording changes. The Home Office Research Development and Statistics Directorate has published a further report, entitled "National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS): An Analysis of the Impact on Recorded Crime" to explain how these adjustments have been derived, and the impact both nationally and in individual police forces.

As police forces have now had a full year in which to implement the new standard, and as the research report shows that the impact of the new standard appears to be complete for our main target crimes, I am announcing that this is the last occasion on which we will make these adjustments to the recorded crime figures.

The Home Office is committed to continually improving both the accuracy and presentation of the statistics on crime, and will continue to make necessary changes to those statistics in order to do so in future.