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The BBC's Jane Peel
"There is no national system for recording crime"
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Home Office minister Charles Clarke
"It's an absolutely massive issue to sort out"
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Monday, 31 July, 2000, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Crime rate 'could be 20% higher'
Police officers
Crime recording methods vary between UK forces
The Home Office is to launch a review of how crime is recorded and presented in England and Wales.

The move is expected to see an upwards adjustment in the official UK crime rate.

An accompanying report from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will confirm that current variations in police methods of recording crime mean the actual crime rates could be 20% higher than official figures in some regions.

Statistics published two weeks ago showed crime is rising in England and Wales, with a sharp increase in violent crime.


The government's latest Review of Crime Statistics, a consultation paper, will contain proposals to provide greater accuracy and consistency in data collection across the 43 police forces.

Speaking on the BBC's Today programme, Home Office Minister of State Charles Clarke described differences in the way some crimes are recorded as "completely dotty".

"We've got 43 different forces doing different things according to different traditions, with different computer systems in quite different ways," he said.

"Some record on the basis of allegations made. Some record on the basis of requiring a certain degree of evidence. The level of comparability is very poor right across the country.
Home Office minister Charles Clarke
Home Office minister Charles Clarke: Current differences 'completely dotty'

"It seems completely dotty which is why we are setting about changing it," said Mr Clarke.

The discussion paper is meant to prepare the way for a standardised recording system.

Police performance will be measured more accurately, but the system is also expected to see a rise in the official crime rate.

HMIC's On the Record and Under the Microscope reports are part of a series designed to assist and support the police service, and their community partners, in achieving a long-term reduction in crime and disorder.

The On the Record inspection report examines police crime recording as well as the National Intelligence System.

Under the Microscope will examine the way the police service uses scientific and technical support to reduce volume crime.

'Tough on crime'

Some forces' failure to make use of DNA evidence in burglaries and car crime is expected to be criticised by HMIC.

Two weeks ago, government figures revealed overall crime had risen by nearly 4%.

Home Office figures for England and Wales showed a total of 5.3 million offences reported to the police in 1999-2000 compared to 5.1 million in the previous year.

Home Secretary Jack Straw stressed at that time that Labour was determined to be tough on crime.

He told the BBC: "We came into government with a promise to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. This is not an empty slogan at all."

The Conservative Party strongly criticised the government over the new figures, blaming them on falling police numbers.

Gloucestershire Chief Constable Tony Butler said the system of recording crime figures was unhelpful and needed to be "simplified".

He said the majority of violent crimes, for example, were minor assaults.

"I'm talking about pushing people over in bars which is recorded now as a violent crime in the same way that a murder is."

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