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Crime: Detection Rates

Volume 744: debated on Thursday 14 March 2013


Asked by

My Lords, this Government do not assess the performance of police forces through centrally mandated targets. However, we are ensuring that the public and PCCs have access to consistent and comprehensive information on all crime outcomes. This supports police accountability, as the public can now hold the police to account for how they respond to crime in their area.

My Lords, I am not sure that that really answers my Question. Perhaps I can be clearer. Government cuts mean that 15,000 fewer police officers will be in place by the time of the next election. It is not therefore rocket science to understand that last year 30,000 fewer crimes were solved. The Minister will be aware that forensic evidence is a key part of bringing criminals to justice. Can I direct him to yesterday’s evidence from Michael Turner QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, to the Science and Technology Committee of the other place? He said that following the Government’s abolition of the highly regarded Forensic Science Service, the quality of expert witnesses being used by the crown was now, in his words, “variable”. Is the Minister aware of the frustration of so many investigating police officers who are experiencing serious delays in getting the forensic evidence reports they have taken at the scene of crime? They are not getting them in time. Given the questions on the quality and delays in the system in getting a forensic evidence service, does the Minister think that scrapping the Forensic Science Service was a good idea?

I have been to a number of forensic science laboratories in the course of my work, and I have seen that the quality of work being done there is second to none. Indeed, on DNA activity in particular, we are ahead of the game. It is important to emphasise that the background painted by the noble Baroness is inaccurate to the extent that she failed to recognise that recorded crime was down by 10% in the first two years of this Government.

My Lords, perhaps I may get slightly more specific. I have anecdotal evidence of a rise in Muslim hate crime in this country, which apparently is recorded only by the Metropolitan Police. Will my noble friend use his best efforts to encourage other PCCs to make such recordings, because otherwise we will not know exactly what is going on?

My Lords, in fact the disaggregation of crime analysis is going to make it much easier to discover these figures. My noble friend makes a very good point. I know that colleagues in government are working with the Home Office to make sure that hate crimes, wherever they occur, are properly dealt with.

My Lords, given what the Minister said about a reduction in crime, is he suggesting that there has also been a serious drop in the number of crimes reported for forced marriage, honour-related violence, FGM and rape?

As the noble Baroness will know, some concerns have been raised by the Director of Public Prosecutions about false allegations of rape. His report clearly shows that these cases are very few and far between and that police forces should be encouraged to take rape allegations more seriously, as indeed they should any allegations of forced marriage.

My Lords, does the Minister share my concern that the Metropolitan Police are spending £4 million a year on international travel and more than £1.5 million a year on providing chauffeur-driven cars for ACPO officers—money that could be better spent on employing 80 police officers to deal with crime detection?

That may well be so, and my noble friend makes a very good point. The governance of the Metropolitan Police lies, of course, in the hands of the Mayor of London, and I know of no more vigorous pursuer of value for money than the Mayor of London.

Can the Minister confirm that CCTV has been extremely effective in reducing the opportunities for crime?

Indeed, it has. At the moment, we are evaluating a consultation that we have had on a new code of practice for CCTV and its use. It is an extremely useful tool when properly used, and it is very important that we recognise that it needs to be properly used in our communities.

With respect to a previous answer on the costs of international travel, will the Minister please recognise that crime is no longer local? It is international and, indeed, transnational, and that trend is being accelerated by cybercrime. When he looks with a sceptical eye at these costs, will he make sure that he does not debilitate the police in carrying out their job of tackling international crime?

The noble Lord makes a very good point. Indeed, we have police officers embedded in and working in overseas countries because of the international nature of many crime networks. It is greatly to the advantage of this country’s fight against crime in this country that we have intelligence about these things. On the other hand, I think my noble friend was right to challenge expenditure. It is right that all public bodies are challenged on costs, because it is up to them to evidence why it is important that this money is spent.