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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 17:55 GMT
Crime statistics 'need overhaul'
Charles Clarke
Former home secretary Charles Clarke commissioned the report
The way crime statistics are produced needs a "radical overhaul", a Home Office review has concluded.

The report says the current system misses out significant groups of victims and some definitions of crime are "confusing and misleading".

It urges a "shift in emphasis" in the way figures for England and Wales are presented with greater focus given to local rather than national statistics.

The figures come from the British Crime Survey and recorded crime data.

The independent review, commissioned by former home secretary Charles Clarke, says recorded crime data - police crime figures - ignore the 60% of offences that go unreported.

SUGGESTED CHANGES
More local data
Extending range of victims
Revising type of offences

Yet the British Crime Survey, which sets out to measure the extent and nature of crimes the public have experienced in the last year by surveying 50,000 adults, also misses some offences.

The report notes it does not capture crimes committed against corporate victims, those under 16 and adults not living in so-called "normal" households or private homes. These means residents of student halls or old people's homes are among those not included.

And it said about half of all of what is classed as violent crime involves no physical injury, including offences such as bigamy.

Public trust

The figures on reported crime reflect national trends and are said to be misleading for most local areas because "crime is very skewed in its geographical distribution".

We welcome this report to help us ensure that the public have a better understanding and greater trust in crime statistics
Home Office spokesman

The reports calls for the publication of crime figures related to areas covered by the new neighbourhood policing teams which can be as small as electoral wards.

Review chairman Professor Adrian Smith said: "It's very important that the public trusts crime statistics."

He said if you had statistics the public perceived to be in conflict with their experiences or that left out whole areas of criminal activity, then their confidence and trust were undermined.

Integrity

Victim Support and youth participation group Young Voice welcomed the idea of including crimes committed against under-16s in the British Crime Survey.

If no changes are made, we could see... more young people losing faith in the authorities
Adrienne Katz, Young Voice

Dr Harriet Becher, young victims project manager at Victim Support, said: "The extent of crime against young people has been obscured by poor collection of data for too long.

"If the problem remains largely invisible, how can you hope to manage it, or be surprised when young victims become angry after being let down by society?"

Adrienne Katz, chief executive of Young Voice, said: "If no changes are made, we could see fragmented data collection for years to come and more young people losing faith in the authorities."

The independent review was carried out by leading statisticians, police officials and criminologists amid concerns public trust in the crime figures had declined so much that it was not possible to have a proper debate about policies.

It said the data should continue to be collected by the Home Office but there should be a review to ensure "independence and integrity".

Any "political commentary" should be kept separate from the published figures, it added.

The Home Office said the findings would help it decide the best way of collecting and reporting statistics in the future.

A spokesman said: "We welcome this report to help us ensure that the public have a better understanding and greater trust in crime statistics."


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